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Author: Joseph Alexander

Joseph Addison Alexander

Joseph Addison Alexander (April 24, 1809 - January 28, 1860) was an American clergyman and biblical scholar. He was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on April 24, 1809, the third son of Archibald Alexander and Janetta Waddel Alexander, brother to James Waddel Alexander and William Cowper Alexander. He graduated at the College of New Jersey (now Princeton University) with the first honor, in the class of 1826, having devoted himself especially to the study of Hebrew and other languages.

He thereupon, in connection with Robert Bridges Patton, established Edgehill seminary at Mercer County, New Jersey, and in 1830 he was made adjunct professor of ancient languages in Princeton College, holding the professorship until 1833. In 1834, he became an assistant to Dr. Charles Hodge, professor of oriental and biblical literature in the Princeton Theological Seminary, and in 1838, he became associate professor of oriental and biblical literature there, succeeding Dr. Hodge in that chair in 1840 and being transferred in 1851 to the chair of biblical and ecclesiastical history, and in 1859 to that of Hellenistic and New Testament literature, which he occupied until his death at Princeton on January 28, 1860.

Alexander was distinguished in Oriental scholarship as well as in biblical learning, and was a thorough master of the modern European languages. He had been ordained as a Presbyterian minister in 1839, and was well known for his pulpit eloquence. He was the author of The Earlier Prophecies of Isaiah (1846), The Later Prophecies of Isaiah (1847), and an abbreviation of these two volumes, Isaiah Illustrated and Explained (2 vols., 1851), The Psalms Translated and Explained (3 vols., 1850), Commentary on Acts (2 vols., 1857) and Commentary on Mark (1858). After his death there appeared his two volumes of Sermons (1860), Commentary on Matthew (1861) and Notes on New Testament Literature (1861).[1] Henry Carrington Alexander prepared a biography first published in 1869.

He was elected to the American Philosophical Society in 1845.


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Psalm 28

Psalm 28

A Psalm of David. Unto thee will I cry, O LORD my rock; be not silent to me: lest, if thou be silent to me, I become like them that go down into the pit. Hear the voice of my supplications, when I cry unto thee, when I lift up my hands toward thy holy oracle. Draw me not away with the wicked, and with the workers of iniquity, which speak peace to their neighbors, but mischief is in their hearts. Give them according to their deeds, and according to the wickedness of their endeavors: give them after the work of their hands; render to them their desert. Because they regard not the works of the LORD, nor the operation of his hands, he shall destroy them, and not build them up. Blessed be the LORD, because he hath heard the voice of my supplications. The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusted in him, and I am helped: therefore my heart greatly rejoiceth; and with my song will I praise him. The LORD is their strength, and he is the saving strength of his anointed. Save thy people, and bless thine inheritance: feed them also, and lift them up forever.” (Psalm 28, AV)

As in the preceding psalm, a righteous sufferer prays that he may not be confounded with the wicked whom his soul abhors, so here a like prayer is offered by the Anointed of Jehovah. He first prays in general for audience and acceptance, without which he must quickly perish, ver. 1, 2. He then asks to be distinguished from the wicked in the infliction of God’s judgments, ver. 3–5. He then gives thanks for the anticipated answer to his prayer, ver. 6–8, and implores an extension of the blessing to all God’s people at all times, ver. 9. The collocation of the psalm is clearly not fortuitous, but founded on its close resemblance to the one before it.

1. By David. Unto thee, Jehovah, will I call; my rock, be not silent from me, lest thou hold thy peace from me, and I be made like to those going down (into) the pit. My rock, the immoveable foundation of my hope and object of my trust. See above, on Ps. 18:3, 32 (2, 31), 19:15 (14). That God is such affords a sufficient reason for the importunate demands which follow. It is inconsistent with the relation he sustains to those who trust him, that he should be silent when they pray, i.e. refuse to answer. The ideas of distance and estrangement are really implied in being silent, and suggested by the pregnant construction silent from. The meaning of the last clause is correctly given, with a change of idiom, in the English version, lest, if thou be silent, &c. The passive verb does not merely mean to be like, but to be made like, assimilated, confounded. The pit, the grave, both in its narrower and wider sense. (Compare Isa. 14:15, 19.) Those going down into the pit is a common description of the dead. See Ps. 30:4 (3), 88:5 (4), and compare Ps. 22:30 (29).

2. Hear the voice of my supplications, in my crying unto thee (for help); in my lifting up my hands to thy holy oracle. In my crying, in my lifting, i.e. at the time of my so doing, when I am in the very act. The lifting up of the hands is a natural symbol of the raising of the heart or the desires to God, and is therefore often mentioned in connection with the act of prayer. Exod. 9:29, 17:11, 12, 1 Kings 8:22, 54, Lam. 2:19, 3:41, Ps. 63:5 (4).—The word translated oracle is derived from the verb to speak, and seems to mean a place of speaking or conversation, like the English parlor from the French parler. Now we learn from Exod. 25:22, Num. 7:89, that the place whence God talked with Moses was the inner apartment of the tabernacle; and from 1 Kings 6:19, that the corresponding part of the temple bore the name here used. To this, as the depository of the ark and the earthly residence of God, the ancient saints looked as we look now to Christ, in whom the idea of the Mosaic sanctuary has been realized. See above, on Ps. 5:8 (7).

3. Draw me not away with wicked (men), and with workers of iniquity, speaking peace with their neighbors, and evil (is) in their heart. This is the prayer for which he bespeaks audience and acceptance in the foregoing verse. Draw me not away, i.e. to punishment or out of life. Compare Ps. 26:9, where the parallel expression is gather me not. In both cases he prays that he may not be confounded in his death with those whose life he abhors. The last clause exhibits a particular trait in the character of the wicked men and evil doers of the other clause. This trait is hypocritical dissimulation, the presence of friendship as a mask to hatred. The simple construction with the copulative and is equivalent to our expressions, but, though, while, &c.

4. Give to them according to their act, and according to the evil of their deeds, according to the work of their hands give thou to them; return their treatment to them. Having prayed that he may not share the destruction of the wicked, he now prays that they may not escape it. But as this is merely asking God to act as a just and holy being must act, the charge of vindictive cruelty is not merely groundless, but absurd.—The evil of their deeds is a phrase borrowed from Moses (Deut. 28:20), and often repeated by Jeremiah (4:4, 21:12, 23:2, 22, 26:3, 44:22). The same prophet has combined two of the phrases here employed in Jer. 25:14, and Lam. 3:64. The word translated treatment is a participle meaning that which is done by one person to another, whether good or evil. See above, on Ps. 7:5 (4).

5. Because they will not attend to the acts of Jehovah and to the doing of his hands, he will pull them down and will not build them up. Having appealed to the divine justice for a righteous recompense of these offenders, he now shews what they have deserved and must experience, by shewing what they have done, or rather not done. The acts of Jehovah and the works of his hands are common expressions for his penal judgments. See Ps. 64:10 (9), 92:5 (4), Isa. 5:12, 28:21, 29:23.—Pull down and not build up, is an idiomatic combination of positive and negative terms to express the same idea.—Build, therefore, does not mean rebuild, but is simply the negative or opposite of pull down. The form of expression is copied repeatedly by Jeremiah (31:28, 42:10, 45:4.) See also Job 12:14.

6. Blessed (be) Jehovah, because he hath heard the voice of my supplications. What he asked in ver. 2 he has now obtained, or at least the assurance of a favorable answer, in the confident anticipation of which he begins already to bless God. The word translated supplications means, according to its etymology, prayers for grace or mercy.

7. Jehovah, my strength and my shield! In him has my heart trusted, and I have been helped, and my heart shall exult, and by my song I will thank (or praise) him. The construction of the first clause as a proposition, by supplying the substantive verb, Jehovah (is) my strength and my shield, is unnecessary, and neither so simple nor so strong as that which makes it a grateful and admiring exclamation.—My heart is twice used in this sentence to express the deep and cordial nature of the exercises which he is describing. The same heart that trusted now rejoices. As he believed with all his heart, so now he rejoices in like manner.—By my song, literally from or out of it, as the source and the occasion of his praise. Compare Ps. 22:26 (25).

8. Jehovah (is) strength to them, and a stronghold of salvation (to) his Anointed (is) He. The Psalmist having spoken hitherto not only for himself but for the people, here insensibly substitutes the third person plural for the first person singular. In the last clause he reverts to himself, but with the use of an expression which discloses his relation to the people, of which he was not only a member but the delegated head, the Anointed of Jehovah. See above, on Ps. 2:2. A stronghold. See above on Ps. 27:1.—Salvations, full salvation. See above on Ps. 18:51 (50). The personal pronoun at the end of the sentence is emphatic, and intended to concentrate the attention upon one great object.

9. Oh save thy people, and bless thy heritage, and feed them, and carry (or exalt them) even to eternity! The whole psalm closes with a prayer that the relation now subsisting between God and his people may continue forever. Thy heritage, thy peculiar people, whom thou dost preserve and treat as such from generation to generation. The idea and expression are Mosaic. See Deut. 9:29, and compare Ps. 33:12, 68:10 (9), 94:5. The image then merges into that of a shepherd and his flock, a favorite one with David and throughout the later scriptures. See above, on Ps. 23:1.—Feed them, not only in the strict sense, but in that of doing the whole duty of a shepherd. The next verb is by some translated carry them, in which sense the primitive is elsewhere used in speaking of a shepherd (Isa. 40:11), and this very form appears to have the same sense in Isa. 63:9, while in 2 Sam. 5:12 it is applied to the exaltation of David himself as a theocratic sovereign.[1]

 

[1] Alexander, J. A. (1864). The Psalms Translated and Explained (pp. 123–125). Edinburgh: Andrew Elliot; James Thin. (Public Domain)

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Psalm 27

Psalm 27

A sufferer, surrounded by enemies intent on his destruction, and deprived of human help, implores divine assistance and expresses his assured hope of obtaining it. The expression of confidence occurs at the beginning and the end, the description of the danger and the prayer for deliverance in the body of the psalm. If God be for him, and admit him to his household, he is satisfied and safe, ver. 1–6. With this persuasion he implores that God will interpose for his deliverance from present danger, ver. 7–12. If he did not believe that God would grant his request he must despair; but as he does believe it, he encourages himself to wait for it, ver. 13, 14. There is no apparent reference to any particular historical occasion, but an obvious intention to provide a vehicle of pious sentiment for all God’s people under the form of trial here described.

1. By David. Jehovah (is) my light and my salvation; of whom shall I be afraid? Jehovah (is) the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be in dread? As darkness is a common figure for distress, and light for relief from it, the same idea is here twice expressed, first in a figurative form as light, and then more literally as salvation. These terms are applied to God, by a natural and common figure of speech, as the source or dispenser of light and salvation. Compare Micah 7:8. The interrogations imply negation of the strongest kind. The form of expression is imitated in Rom. 8:31–35.—The noun מָעזוֹ is sometimes used as an abstract, strength; but its proper meaning, as its very form denotes, is local. The stronghold or fortress of my life, that which makes my life as safe as walls and fortifications. The variation of the verbs in the two clauses is merely rhetorical, without any change in the idea.

2. In the drawing near against me of evil-doers, to devour my flesh, (in the drawing near of) my adversaries and my enemies to me, (it is) they (that) have stumbled and fallen. Even in the most imminent dangers which have hitherto befallen me, the divine protection has enabled me to see those who sought to overwhelm me overwhelmed themselves. Evil-doers, not only against me, but in general. It was not because they were his enemies merely, but because they were the enemies of God, that he so easily subdued them.—To eat my flesh, a figure borrowed from the habits of wild beasts. Compare Job 19:22, Ps. 14:4, 35:1.—To me is to be construed not with enemies, but with the verb, as in Job 33:22. See below, on Ps. 55:19. The pronoun expressed in the last clause is emphatic, “They themselves, not I, as they expected, fell.”

3. If there encamp against me an encampment, my heart shall not fear; if there arise against me war, (even) in this (case) I (am) confident. With the sentiment of this verse compare Ps. 3:7 (6). The primary meaning of the noun in the first clause is retained in the translation for the sake of its assonance with the verb, which is lost in the common version, although marked in the original. By encampment, however, must be understood the men encamped, the host, the army.—In this, even in this extremity. Compare Lev. 26:27, Job 1:22. The common version, in this will I be confident, although ambiguous, appears to mean, “I will confide in this, i.e. in the fact that Jehovah is my light and my salvation.” This construction is grammatical, and yields a good sense, but the other is more pointed and emphatic, and the absolute use of בּוֹטֵחַ in the sense of safe, secure, is justified by Judges 18:27, Jer. 12:5, Prov. 11:15.

4. One (thing) have I asked from Jehovah, (and) that will I (still) seek, that I may dwell in the house of Jehovah, to gaze at the beauty of Jehovah, and to inquire in his temple. To dwell in the house of the Lord is not merely to frequent his sanctuary as a place of worship, but to be a member of his household, and as such in intimate communion with him. See above, on Ps. 15:1, 23:6.—Beauty, loveliness, desirableness, all that makes God an object of affection and desire to the believer. See below, on Ps. 90:17. Some take the last verb in the secondary sense of meditating; but the proper one of inquiring is entirely appropriate.—Temple, properly palace, the earthly residence of the great King, and therefore equally appropriate to the temple and the tabernacle. See above, on Ps. 5:8 (7).

5. For he will hide me in his covert in the day of evil; he will secrete me in the secrecy of his tent; on a rock he will set me high. This verse assigns his reason for wishing to be still a member of Jehovah’s household, namely, because there he is sure of effectual protection.—The word translated covert means a booth or shelter made of leaves and branches, such as the Jews used at the feast of tabernacles (Lev. 23:42). It is here used as a figure for secure protection in the day of evil, i.e. of suffering or danger.—Secrete and secrecy are used in the translation to represent the cognate verb and noun in Hebrew.—By his tent, as appears from the preceding verse, we are to understand the tabernacle, not considered merely as a place of public worship, but as Jehovah’s earthly residence, his mansion. In the last clause the idea of protection is conveyed by an entirely different figure, that of a person placed upon a high rock beyond the reach of danger. See above, on Ps. 9:14 (13), 18:49 (48).

6. And now shall my head be high above my enemies around me, and I will sacrifice in his tabernacle sacrifices of joyful noise; I will sing and make music to Jehovah. And now may either be a formula of logical resumption, as in Ps. 2:10, 39:8 (7), or be taken in its strict sense, as denoting that he not only hopes for future safety, but is ready in the meantime, even now, to thank him publicly for his protection as already realized. The first clause merely amplifies the last of the preceding verse. The next adds the promise of a thank-offering at the tabernacle, which implies an assured hope of deliverance and prosperity. By a joyful noise some understand the blowing of trumpets which accompanied certain offerings (Num. 10:10, 29:1); but as this is never mentioned in connection with private sacrifices, it seems more advisable to rest in the general sense of the expression.

7. Hear, O Jehovah! (with) my voice I will call, and do thou have mercy on me and answer me. The Psalmist here descends from the tone of confident assurance to that of strong desire, prompted by a sense of urgent need.—With my voice, not merely with my mind, but audibly, aloud. See above, on Ps. 3:5 (4).

8. To thee hath said my heartSeek ye my facethy face, Jehovah, will I seek. The general meaning of this verse is obvious enough, although its syntax is exceedingly obscure. The best solution is to take “seek ye my face” as a citation of God’s own words. “My heart has said to thee—(whenever thou hast said) Seek ye my face,—thy face,” &c. Or, “my heart has said to thee—(in answer to thy words) Seek ye my face—thy face,” &c.—My heart hath said, i.e. I have said with or from the heart. See above, on Ps. 11:1. There may be an allusion to Deut. 4:29, from which the expression seek God (2 Sam. 12:16, 2 Chron. 20:4), and seek his face (Ps. 24:6, 105:4) seems to be derived. The idea is that of seeking admission to his presence for the purpose of asking a favor. See above, on Ps. 24:6.

9. Hide not thy face from me, put not away in wrath thy servant; my help thou hast been; forsake me not, and leave me not, (O) God of my salvation! The first petition is that God will not withhold from him the manifestation of his love or favor. See above, on Ps. 4:7 (6).—Put not away, or thrust aside, as one unworthy to be noticed.—Thy servant, and as such entitled to thy kind regard.—My help, i.e. the source and author of my help, my helper. Thou hast been; the past tense is here essential: what thou hast been, continue to be still.—God of my salvation, my Savior God, or God my Savior; see above, on Ps 18:47 (46).

10. For my father and my mother have left me, and Jehovah will take me in. Parents are here put for the nearest friends, whose loss or desertion is frequently complained of in the Psalms as one of the most painful signs of desolation. See Ps. 31:12 (11), 38:12 (11), 69:9 (8), 88:9 (8), and compare Job 19:13. The first clause may also be translated, when my father and my mother have left me, then the Lord will take me in.—The last expression is applied to the compassionate reception of strangers or wanderers into one’s house. See Josh. 20:4, Judges 19:15, and compare Mat. 25:35, 43. The case described is an ideal one, and may be thus expressed in paraphrase: “The kindness of the nearest earthly friends may cease by death or desertion (for the verb to leave may comprehend both); but the Lord’s compassions cannot fail.”

11. Guide me, Jehovah, (in) thy way, and lead me in a straight (or level) path, because of my adversaries. The way in which he here desires to be led, is not the way of duty but of providence, which he calls a straight or smooth path, as distinguished from the rough or crooked ways of adversity. See above, on Ps. 25:4, 26:12.—Because of my enemies, that they may have no occasion to exult or triumph. Of the many Hebrew words applied to enemies, the one here used is supposed by some to signify malignant watchers for the errors or calamities of others. The one used in the next verse means oppressors or causers of distress.—With this clause compare Ps. 26:12.

12. Give me not up to the will of my enemies; for risen up against me are witnesses of falsehood, and a breather forth of cruelty. The word translated will properly means soul, and is here used for the ruling wish or heart’s desire, as in Ps. 35:25. The second clause assigns the ground or reason of this prayer. As if he had said, I have reason to ask this, for there have risen up, &c.—One breathing violence or cruelty, a strong but natural expression for a person, all whose thoughts and feelings are engrossed by a favorite purpose or employment, so that he cannot live or breathe without it. Compare the description of Saul’s persecuting zeal in Acts 9:1, and the Latin phrases, spirare minas, anhelare scelus.

13. Unless I believed (or fully expected) to look upon the goodness of Jehovah in the land of life. This is an instance of the figure called aposiopesis, in which the conclusion of the sentence is suppressed, either from excitement and hurried feeling, or because of some unwillingness to utter what is necessary to complete it. Thus in this case the apodosis would probably have been, I would despair, or I must have perished. (Compare Ps. 119:92.) Of the other cases usually cited, that in Gen. 31:42 especially resembles this, because the sentence opens with a similar conditional expression.—To look upon, not merely to behold, but to gaze at with delight. See above on Ps. 22:18 (17).—The land of life, as opposed to that of darkness and the shadow of death (Job 10:21), seems to be a more correct translation than the common one, land of the living.

14. Wait thou for Jehovah; be firm, and may he strengthen thy heart; and wait thou for Jehovah! Instead of finishing the inauspicious sentence which he had begun, he interrupts himself with an earnest exhortation to await the fulfilment of God’s promises, to hope in him. See above, on Ps. 25:3.—The optative and causative senses of the third verb (יַֽאֲמֵץ) are both determined by its form, which equally forbids the versions, let thy heart be strong, and he will strengthen it.—The repetition, wait for the Lord, and wait for the Lord, implies that this is all he has to enjoin upon himself or others, and is more impressive, in its native simplicity, than the correct but periphrastic version of the last clause in the English Bible, wait, I say, upon the Lord.[1]

 

 

[1] Alexander, J. A. (1864). The Psalms Translated and Explained (pp. 120–123). Edinburgh: Andrew Elliot; James Thin. (Public Domain)

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Psalm 26

Psalm 26

An appeal to God’s justice and omniscience, ver. 1–3, enforced by a disavowal of all sympathy and communion with the wicked, ver. 4–6, and a profession of devotion to God’s service, ver. 7, 8, with an earnest prayer to be delivered from the death of those whose life he abhors, ver. 9, 10, and an expression of strong confidence that God will hear his prayer, ver. 11, 12. There is a certain similarity of form between this psalm and the foregoing, which, together with their collocation in the Psalter, makes it not improbable that they were designed to constitute a pair or double psalm.

1. By David. Judge me, Jehovah, for I in my integrity have walked, and in Jehovah I have trusted; I shall not swerve (or slip). The correctness of the title is confirmed by the resemblance of the psalm itself to several, the authorship of which is undisputed, more especially Ps. 15. 17. 18. 24.—Judge me, do me justice, vindicate or clear me. See above, on Ps. 17:1, 2.—In my integrity of purpose and of principle. To this is added its inseparable adjunct, trust in God.—Walked, lived, pursued a certain course of conduct. See above, on Ps. 1:1. The last clause is by some explained as the expression of a wish, let me not be moved. But there is no reason for departing from the strict sense of the future, as expressing a confident anticipation. Swerve, as in Ps. 18:37 (36), 37:31.

2. Try me, Jehovah, and prove me; assay my reins and my heart. The first verb is supposed by etymologists to signify originally trial by touch, the second by smell, and the third by fire. In usage, however, the second is constantly applied to moral trial or temptation, while the other two are frequently applied to the testing of metals by the touchstone or the furnace. This is indeed the predominant usage of the third verb, which may therefore be represented by the technical metallurgic term, assay. See above, on Ps. 17:3, where two of the same verbs occur.—Reins and heart are joined, as seats of the affections. See above, on Ps. 7:10 (9).—The prayer of this verse is an appeal to God’s omniscience for the psalmist’s integrity of purpose, which agrees much better with the context than the explanation of צרופה as a participle, and of the last clause as an affirmation, purified (or purged) are my reins and my heart.

3. For thy mercy (is) before my eyes, and I have walked in thy truth. This verse assigns a reason for his confident persuasion that he shall not slide, to wit, because God’s mercy is before his eyes, literally, in front of them, i.e. constantly in view, as an object of memory and ground of hope. He is also encouraged by his previous experience of God’s truth or faithfulness. See above, on Ps. 25:5. The verb translated walked is an intensive form of that used in ver. 1 above, and ver. 11 below. It means properly to walk about or to and fro, and expresses more distinctly than the primitive verb, the idea of continuous habitual action. “My constant experience of thy mercy and thy faithfulness assure me that I shall not fall away hereafter.”

4. I have not sat with men of falsehood, and with hidden (men) I will not go. He is further encouraged to believe that he will be sustained because he has not hitherto espoused the cause of those who hate God.—Men of falsehood, liars or deceivers, which appears to suit the context better than the wider sense of vain men, i.e. destitute of all moral goodness, good for nothing, worthless. See above, on Ps. 5:7 (6), 24:4. The same class of persons are described in the last clause as masked, disguised, or hypocritical.—Sat, not merely in their company, but in their councils, taking part in their unlawful machinations. The change of tense is anything rather than unmeaning. “I have not sat with them in time past, and I will not go with them in time to come.” The form of expression is borrowed from Gen. 49:6.

6. I will wash in innocence my hands, and will compass thy altar, O Jehovah! To the negative professions of the two preceding verses he now adds a positive declaration of his purpose. Not content with abstaining from all share in the counsels of the wicked, he is fully resolved to adhere to the service of the Lord. He will cleanse himself from all that would unfit him for that service, and then cleave to the sanctuary where God dwells. The expression in the first clause seems to be copied from Gen. 20:5, and the symbol or emblem from Deut. 21:6. (Compare Mat. 27:24.) Whether compassing the altar be explained to mean going round it in procession, or embracing it, the idea expressed is still that of close adherence and devoted attachment.

7. To make known with a voice of thanksgiving, and to recount all thy wondrous works. The object of the acts described in the preceding verse was to promote God’s glory. To make known, literally to cause to hear or to be heard. The clause admits of several constructions. 1. To publish thanksgivings with the voice. 2. To publish with a thankful voice, without expressing what. 3. To publish and recount all thy wondrous works with a voice of thanksgiving. The last is on the whole entitled to the preference.—The last word in the verse is a passive participle, meaning wonderfully made or done. The plural feminine is used indefinitely like the neuter in Greek and Latin, to mean things done wonderfully, which is also the idea of the common version, wondrous works.

8. Jehovah, I have loved the habitation of thy house, and the place of the dwelling of thy glory. This verse expresses more directly and literally the idea of ver. 6 above, and shews that his compassing the altar was intended to denote his love for the earthly residence of God, the altar being there put for the whole sanctuary, which is here distinctly mentioned. The habitation of thy house might be understood to mean a residence in it; but the usage of the first noun and the parallelism shew that it rather means the place where thy house dwells, perhaps in allusion to the migratory movements of the ark and its appendages before the time of David. So too in the last clause, Hebrew usage would admit of the translation, thy glorious dwelling-place, as in Ps. 20:7 (6); but the use of כָּבוֹד, in the Pentateuch, to signify the visible presence of Jehovah (Exod. 24:16, 40:34, 35), seems decisive in favor of explaining it the place where thy glory dwells, i.e. where the glorious God is pleased to manifest his presence.

9. Take not away my soul with sinners, and with men of blood my life. The primary meaning of the first verb is to gather, as a harvest or as fruit, a figure not unfrequently applied in various languages to death, here described as the taking away of the life or soul. This verse and the next contain a prayer that he may die as he has lived; that since he has had no community of interest or feeling with ungodly men in life, he may not be united with them in his death.—Men of blood, literally bloods, i.e. murderers, either in the strict sense or by metonymy for sinners of the worst class. See above, on Ps. 5:7 (6). Another idiomatic plural in this sentence is the word lives at the end, which is used as an abstract simply equivalent to life in English.

10. In whose hands is crime, and their right hand is filled with a bribe. The first clause exhibits the peculiar construction of the relative in Hebrew with the personal pronoun expressed, of which it is the substitute in other languages. Who (or as to whom)—in their hands (is) crime. This last word (זִמָּה) is a very strong one, used in the Law to denote specifically acts of gross impurity, but signifying really any wicked act or purpose The common version, mischief, is too weak. The last word in the verse denotes especially a judicial bribe (Ps. 15:5), and may be intended to suggest that the whole description has reference to unrighteous rulers, or to wicked men in public office.

11. And I in my integrity will walk; redeem me and be merciful to me. The use of the conjunction and emphatic pronoun is the same as in Ps. 2:6 above. Our idiom would require an adversative conjunction, but I, in opposition to the sinners just described, but as for me, I will still walk as I have done in sincerity and simplicity of purpose. The obvious contrast of the tenses here and in ver. 1, may serve to shew how seldom they are used promiscuously or confounded.—That the Psalmist’s perfection or integrity was neither absolute nor inherent, is clear from the petition of the last clause. He expects still to be perfect, not because he is without sin, but because he hopes to be redeemed from its dominion through the mercy of Jehovah.

12. My foot stands in an even place; in the assemblies will I bless Jehovah. As a state of danger and distress might be compared to a precipitous and rugged path, so one of ease and safety is denoted by a smooth or level path. My foot (now) stands, or has (at last) stood, found a resting-place, implying previous wanderings and hardships.—The assemblies primarily meant are no doubt the stated congregations at the sanctuary. The determination to praise God implies a strong assurance that the occasion for so doing will be granted. See above, on Ps. 5:8 (7). The whole verse indeed is an expression of confident belief that God will hear and answer the foregoing prayers, and thus, as in many other psalms, we are brought back at the conclusion to the starting-point. Compare the last clause of ver. 1.[1]

 

 

[1] Alexander, J. A. (1864). The Psalms Translated and Explained (pp. 117–120). Edinburgh: Andrew Elliot; James Thin. (Public Domain)

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Psalm 25

Psalm 25

The first of the alphabetical psalms, in which the verses begin with the different Hebrew letters in their order, an arrangement peculiar to those psalms, in which a single theme or idea is repeated under various forms, and, as it were, in a series of aphorisms. Now and then, in order to complete the expression of the thought, the series of the letters is neglected, either by repeating or omitting one. In this psalm, for example, two successive verses begin with א, and two with ר, while ו and ק are left out. The first verse, however, does not properly belong to the alphabetical series, but constitutes one sentence with the short verse at the end, which is added after the completion of the alphabet. The theme which runs through this psalm is deliverance from enemies, occasionally blended with a prayer for the divine forgiveness.

1. By David. Unto thee, Jehovah, my soul will I lift up, or as some explain it, bring or carry. All agree, however, that the essential idea is that of confident desire. See above, on Ps. 24:4, and compare Ps. 86:4, 143:8, below, where the phrase occurs again. The sentiment expressed is that of settled confidence in God, to the exclusion of all other helpers.

2. My God, in thee have I trusted, let me not be ashamed; let not my enemies triumph over me, or more exactly, with respect to me. As the future verb of the preceding verse implies a fixed determination to confide in God hereafter, so the preterite in this verse indicates that such trust has been exercised already. The present is included under both forms.—Ashamed, disappointed, defeated in my plans and expectations. See above, on Ps. 22:6 (5).—The last clause shews that suffering from enemies was in the Psalmist’s mind throughout.

3. Likewise all (those) waiting for thee shall not be ashamed, ashamed shall be the traitors without cause. He does not ask for any special dispensation in his own behalf, but merely for a fair participation in God’s customary mode of dealing with the whole class of which he is a member, here described as those waiting for God, i.e. hoping in him, awaiting the fulfilment of his promises. The modern English sense of waiting on is too restricted, though the phrase once exactly corresponded to the Hebrew.—The position of the verbs, at the end and the beginning of successive clauses, gives a peculiar turn to the sentence, which is lost in some translations.—Without cause qualifies the word immediately preceding, and describes the enemy not only as perfidious, but as acting so gratuitously, and without provocation. See above, on Ps. 7:5 (4), and below, on Ps. 35:19, 38:20 (19), 69:5 (4).

4. Thy ways, Jehovah, make me know; thy paths teach me. As the ways of God, throughout this psalm, are the same as in Deut. 32:4, namely his dispensations towards his people, the way in which he orders their condition and disposes of their lot, the teaching prayed for must be that of experience. “Let me know in my own case what it is to be guided and protected and provided for by God himself.” This meaning suits the context better than that of moral guidance, which however is implied, if not expressed.

5. Make me walk in thy truth and teach me, for thou (art) the God of my salvation; for thee have I waited all the day. The obvious meaning of this verse, interpreted according to New Testament and modern usage, would be that of a prayer for divine instruction in religious truth or doctrine. But the usage of the Psalms, and the preceding context, are in favor of explaining truth to mean the veracity of God, or the faithful performance of his promises. See Ps. 30:10 (9), 71:22, 91:4. The teaching asked is then experimental teaching, or the actual experience of God’s faithfulness.—The God of my salvation, or my Savior God. See above, on Ps. 18:47 (46).—I have waited. This is no new or untried exercise of faith, to be attempted for the first time, but one with which I have been long familiar.—All the day, continually, always.

6. Remember thy mercies, O Jehovah, and thy favors, for from eternity are they. The prayer for future favors is here founded upon those experienced already.—Of old is an inadequate translation of מֵעוֹלָם, and even in the stronger form, ever of old, less exact and expressive than the literal translation from eternity, to which there is the less objection here, as the words relate not merely to God’s acts but to his attributes.

7. The sins of my youth and my transgressions (O) remember not; according to thy mercy remember thou me, for the sake of thy goodness, O Jehovah! Among the mercies which he craves, the most important is the pardon of his sins, not only in itself considered, but as that without which all the others must be worthless. The sins of his youth are mentioned as the earliest in date, and probably as those committed with the least restraint, at an age when reflection is subordinate to passion. Compare Job 13:26, 2 Tim. 2:22. Besides the obvious reference to the youthful sins of individuals, there may be also an allusion to the national iniquities of Israel, committed in the period of their childhood as a people, namely, that of their sojourn in the wilderness. See below, on ver. 22, and compare Deut. 9:7.

8. Good and upright (is) Jehovah; therefore will he guide sinners in the way. Not only the goodness, but the rectitude of the divine nature requires the exercise of covenanted mercy. The second epithet is borrowed from Deut. 32:4.—The way meant in the last clause is the way of safety or salvation. What is meant may be either that God guides sinners into it by converting them, or that he guides those sinners in it who are still his people, as the same person claims to be both righteous and a sinner in Ps. 41:5, 13, (4, 12). Hence perhaps he uses the indefinite term sinners, not the distinctive phrase the sinners, or the more emphatic epithet, the wicked.

9. He will guide humble (sinners) in justice, and teach humble (sinners) his way. The common version of ענוים, meek, is too restricted and descriptive of mere temper. The Hebrew word is the nearest equivalent to humble in its strong religious sense. The omission of the article may be explained as a poetic license, and the word translated the humble, so as to include the whole class. But the intimate connection between this verse and the one before it, makes it more natural to take ענוים as a description of the sinners mentioned in ver. 8, who are then of course to be regarded as penitent believing sinners, i.e. as true converts. In justice, i.e. in the exercise of justice, as before explained. The way and the teaching are the same as in the foregoing context, namely, those of Providence.

10. All the paths of Jehovah (are) mercy and truth to the keepers of his covenant and his testimonies. The paths of Jehovah are the paths in which he walks himself, in other words, the ways in which he deals with his creatures.—Truth, veracity, fidelity. See above, on ver. 5. A similar combination occurs, John 1:14. The last clause shews that the preceding promises are limited to those who are in covenant with God.—Keepers, observers, those obeying.—His covenant, the commands to which his promise is annexed. The same are called his testimonies against sin and in behalf of holiness. See above, on Ps. 19:8 (7).

11. For the sake of thy name (wilt thou do this), and wilt pardon my iniquity because it is great. The form of the verb (וְסָלַחְתַּ) is one that is commonly preceded by a future, which may here be readily supplied, so as to make the first clause refer to the preceding promises. For thy name’s sake, for the honor of thy nature and thy attributes, as heretofore revealed in act. See above on Ps. 23:3. The emphatic pronoun at the end (רֵב־הוּא) may possibly refer to the remoter antecedent, as in Ps. 22:18 (17). The sense will then be, “and forgive my iniquity because that name is great.” (Compare Mal. 1:11.) There is nothing ungrammatical, however, in the usual construction, which also agrees better with the usage of the adjective (רַב), as denoting rather quantity than elevation, and with the parallel phrase, much transgression (פֶּשַׁע רַב), in Ps. 19:14 (13).

12. Who (is) the man fearing Jehovah? He will guide him in the way he shall choose. In the first clause the form of the original is highly idiomatic; who (is) this, the man, a fearer of Jehovah? See above, on Ps. 24:8.—The ellipsis of the relative in the last clause is common to both idioms.—He guides him, and will guide him. There is not only an affirmation, but a promise. The way, as in the foregoing context, is the providential way in which God directs the course of a man’s life. His choosing it implies not only sovereign authority, but a gracious regard to the interests of his servant.

13. His soul in good shall lodge, and his seed shall possess the land. The parallelism between soul and seed seems to shew that by his soul we are to understand himself, for which the Hebrew has no appropriate expression. The promise, then, includes both himself and his posterity. To lodge, to be at home, to dwell at ease, and by implication, to abide or continue undisturbed. In good, not goodness, but good fortune or prosperity. The verb, translated shall possess, denotes specifically to inherit, or possess as an inheritance, i.e. from generation to generation, in perpetual succession. The land, to wit, the land of Canaan; and as this was the standing promise of the law, uttered even in the Decalogue (Exod. 20:12), it became a formula for all the blessings implicitly embraced in the promise of Canaan to the ancient Israel, and is so used even by our Lord himself, (Mat. 5:5.)

14. The friendship of Jehovah is to (those) fearing him, and his covenant to make them know. The word translated friendship means originally a company of persons sitting together, Ps. 111:1; then familiar conversation, Ps. 55:15 (14); then confidential intercourse, intimacy, friendship, Prov. 3:32; then a confidence or secret, Prov. 11:13. The last sense is commonly preferred in the English version, even when one of the others would be more appropriate, as in this case, where the sense of intimacy, friendship, seems required by the context. The last clause is ambiguous, and may either mean, his covenant is designed to be known by them, or his covenant is designed to make them know, i.e. his way; or in general, to give them knowledge. To make them know his covenant is a forced construction, and forbidden by the collocation of the Hebrew words. The meaning of the whole verse seems to be, that Jehovah condescends to hold familiar intercourse with those who fear him, and enters into covenant relation with them, for the purpose of making them know all that they need know for his service or their own advantage.

15. My eyes (are) always towards Jehovah; for he will bring out from the net my feet. The first clause expresses settled trust and constant expectation. The figure of a net is a favorite one for dangers arising from the craft and spite of enemies. See above, on Ps. 9:16 (15), 10:9.

16. Turn thee unto me, and have mercy upon me, for lonely and distressed (am) I. The prayer to turn implies that his face was before averted, a common figure in the Psalms for the suspension or withholding of God’s favor. See above, on Ps. 4:7 (6).—The word translated lonely is the same that occurs above, Ps. 22:21 (20).

17. The troubles of my heart have they enlarged; from my distresses do thou bring me out. The plural of the first clause is indefinite, equivalent to a passive construction in English, are enlarged. (Compare the common version of Luke 12:20.) It does not refer even to his enemies specifically, but to all others, as distinguished from his lonely self, and from his sole deliverer.

18. See my affliction and my trouble, and forgive all my sins. So long as God leaves him to endure, he is conceived of as not seeing his condition. The prayer that he will see includes the prayer that he will save. The renewed prayer for forgiveness in the last clause seems again to recall to mind the intimate connection between suffering and sin.

19. See my enemies, for they are many, and (with) hatred of violence have hated me. The agency of wicked foes in causing his distresses, which had been referred to in ver. 2, 15, 17, is here again brought into view. The word translated violence is very strong, including the ideas of injustice and cruelty. See above, on Ps. 11:6 (5), 18:49 (48).—The past tense represents the enmity as something of long standing.

20. (O) keep my soul and deliver me; let me not be ashamed, for I have trusted in thee. To keep is here to keep in safety, to preserve.—Ashamed, confounded, disappointed. See above, on ver. 2. The word translated trusted is not that employed in ver. 2, but the one which occurs in Ps. 2:12, and which originally means to seek a refuge or a hiding-place. See above, on Ps. 11:2 (1).

21. Integrity and rectitude shall preserve me, because I have waited for thee. The first word means completeness or perfection (integritas), i.e. freedom from essential defect. See above, on Ps. 18:21, 24 (20, 23). Here, however, it may signify the perfect rectitude of God, which will not suffer him to cast off or forsake those who wait for him, i.e. trustfully expect the fulfilment of his promises.

22. Redeem, O God, Israel out of all his troubles! As the psalm was designed, from the first, to be a vehicle of pious feeling and desire for the whole church, it is here wound up with a petition shewing this extent of purpose. The Psalmist prays no longer for himself, but for all Israel. The peculiar name, Jehovah, which had hitherto been used exclusively, is here exchanged for the generic name of God, perhaps in opposition to the human adversaries of the Psalmist, and his total destitution of all human help. This verse forms no part of the alphabetical series, but begins with the same letter as ver. 16. Like the first verse, it consists of a single clause, as if the two together were designed to constitute one sentence.[1]

 

 

[1] Alexander, J. A. (1864). The Psalms Translated and Explained (pp. 113–117). Edinburgh: Andrew Elliot; James Thin. (Public Domain)

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Psalm 24

A Psalm of David. The earth is the LORD’S, and the fullness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein. For he hath founded it upon the seas, and established it upon the floods. Who shall ascend into the hill of the LORD? or who shall stand in his holy place? He that hath clean hands, and a pure heart; who hath not lifted up his soul unto vanity, nor sworn deceitfully. He shall receive the blessing from the LORD, and righteousness from the God of his salvation. This is the generation of them that seek him, that seek thy face, O Jacob. Selah. Lift up your heads, O ye gates; and be ye lift up, ye everlasting doors; and the King of glory shall come in. Who is this King of glory? The LORD strong and mighty, the LORD mighty in battle. Lift up your heads, O ye gates; even lift them up, ye everlasting doors; and the King of glory shall come in. Who is this King of glory? The LORD of hosts, he is the King of glory. Selah.” (Psalm 24, AV)

This psalm consists of two distinct and, it may seem at first sight, unconnected parts. The first praises God as the universal sovereign by right of creation, ver. 1, 2, and describes the moral requisites to intimate communion with him, ver. 3–6. The second represents him, in a striking figurative form, as entering some place provided for his residence, ver. 7–10. The idea common to both parts is the supremacy of God, both in holiness and majesty. There is no historical occasion to which such a composition would seem more appropriate than the removal of the ark to mount Zion by David, as described in 2 Sam. 6 and 1 Chron. 15. And as the first part of this psalm carries out the idea of dwelling in God’s house, expressed at the close of Ps. 23, it is not an improbable conjecture, though by no means a necessary supposition, that the two psalms were designed to form a pair, and to be sung upon the same occasion; the first, it may be, as the ark left its former resting-place, the second as it drew near to its new one. The resemblance of ver. 3–6 to Ps. 15 make it not improbable that that psalm also was composed for use on a similar if not the same occasion. The supposition of alternate choirs in the case before us appears to be a useless and gratuitous refinement. The sanctuary of the old economy, both in its permanent and temporary forms, was intended to symbolize the doctrine of God’s special presence and residence among his people; and as this was realized in the advent of Christ, the psalm before us has a permanent interest and use, and in a certain sense may be described as Messianic.

1. To David, i.e. belonging to him as its author. See above, on Ps. 3:1, 4:1, 5:1. A Psalm. To Jehovah (belongs) the earth and its fullness, the world and (those) dwelling in it. Its fullness, that which fills it, its contents. The word translated world is a poetical equivalent to earth, denoting specially, according to its etymology, the productive portion of the earth, and thus corresponding indirectly to the Greek οὶκουμίνη, or inhabited earth. This assertion of Jehovah’s sovereign propriety is intended to shew that he was not the God of Israel only, but of the whole world, and thereby entitled to be served with reverence and purity, an idea more distinctly brought out afterwards.

2. For He above the seas has settled it, and above the streams has fixed it. The pronoun is emphatic; He and no one else. See below, Ps. 100:3. He has made the earth what it is, and is therefore the sovereign, both of it and its inhabitants. The idea is not that of subterraneous waters bearing up the land, but simply that of the habitable earth, raised above the surface of the waters which surround it. The use of the Hebrew preposition (עַל) is the same as in Ps. 1:3. There is obvious allusion to the rescue of the dry land from the universal prevalence of water, as described in the Mosaic cosmogony, Gen. 1:9, 10. The sense of the two verses, taken in connection, is that since Jehovah is the God who collected the waters, and caused the dry land to appear, he is the rightful sovereign of the habitable earth, and of those whom it sustains.

3. Who shall go up into the mountain of Jehovah, and who shall stand in his holy place? Since he is thus, by right of creation, the universal sovereign, which of his creatures shall enjoy the happiness and honor of appearing in his presence! The hill of the Lord, or mountain of Jehovah, is mount Zion, henceforth to be hallowed as his earthly dwelling-place. The verb in the last clause does not simply mean to stand, but to stand fast, to maintain one’s ground. See above, on Ps. 1:5. It may, therefore, be implied, that some who gain a bodily access to the consecrated place shall not be suffered to remain there. It is indeed implied in the whole interrogation that mere bodily presence on mount Zion might be wholly unconnected with spiritual access to the holy place.

4. The clean of hands and pure of heart, who has not lifted up his soul to vanity, and has not sworn to fraud (or falsehood). This is the answer to the foregoing question, given by the Psalmist himself. There is no more need of supposing two speakers than in the rhetorical interrogations which are so abundant in Demosthenes and other animated writers. All moral purity is here referred to the hands, the tongue, and the heart, as the organs of external action, speech, and feeling. The same distribution may be made in the commandments of the decalogue. The second clause is very obscure. The form of expression is directly borrowed from the third commandment (Exod. 20:7), where the common version (take in vain) is neither intelligible in itself nor an exact copy of the original. The precise construction) (נָשָׂא לַשָּׁוְא) is found in these two places only; but a cognate one (נָשָׂא אֶל) occurs repeatedly in the sense of setting the heart or the desires on something (See Deut. 24:15, Prov. 19:18, Ps. 25:1, 86:4, 143:8). The only two plausible interpretations of the former phrase are that which makes לַשִּׁוְא a mere poetical variation אַל הַשָּׁוְא and that which gives נָשָׂא לַשָּׁוְא, in both places, the sense of carrying to vanity, i.e. bringing the name of God or the soul of man into connection with a falsehood, whether this be taken in its strict sense, or as meaning an unlawful or unsatisfying object of affection. It seems more natural, however, to explain the case before us, not by the single one in which the combination נָשָׂא לְ occurs, but by the many in which the same verb is connected with the same noun although by a different preposition. The meaning of the clause will then be, who has not set his heart on falsehood, or on any false and sinful object. That false swearing is particularly mentioned in the last clause cannot prove that it is exclusively intended here, as parallel clauses very seldom say precisely the same thing.—Sworn to falsehood, i.e. made a false oath, or sworn for deceit, i.e. with a fraudulent design.

5. He shall carry away a blessing from Jehovah, and righteousness from the God of his salvation. The first verb (יִשָּׂא) seems to have been chosen with some reference to its use in the foregoing verse, but not so as to require us to take it in precisely the same sense. A blessing from Jehovah, not merely from man, with allusion, as some think, to David’s blessing the people, 2 Sam. 6:18.—Righteousness may either mean a practical justification, an attestation of his innocence afforded by his experience of God’s favor; or the gift of righteousness itself, the highest and most precious of all gifts, and one which always follows upon justification.—The God of his salvation, i.e. God his Savior, or his God who is a Savior. See above, on Ps. 18:47 (46).

6. This is the generation seeking him; the seekers of thy face (are) Jacob, i.e. the true Jacob, the true Israel. This refers to the description in ver. 6.—Seeking him (in the singular) is the reading in the text; the marginal reading is those seeking him, which amounts to the same thing. To seek God and to seek his face, i.e., his countenance or presence, are common phrases for the earnest endeavor to secure his favor, Ps. 27:8, 105:4, Hos. 5:15, 2 Sam. 21:1. Our language does not furnish equivalents to the two Hebrew verbs employed to express this idea in the verse before us.—The connection of the last word with the rest of the sentence is obscure. Some make it a vocative: “who seek thy face, O Jacob!” i.e. who seek the countenance and friendship of God’s people. Or, “who seek thy face, O (God of) Jacob!” a very harsh ellipsis, which could only be justified by exegetical necessity. The best sense is yielded by the construction first proposed, or by another, which differs from it only in dispensing with a verb and throwing all into one sentence “This is the generation seeking thee, those seeking thy face (O Jehovah), (the true) Israel.” The sudden apostrophe to God himself makes the sentence more impressive without making it obscure.—The distinction here made between the nominal and real Israel was peculiarly necessary on occasions which were suited to flatter the natural pride of the chosen people, such as that of Jehovah’s solemn entrance into Zion, as the peculiar God of Israel. To correct this abuse of their extraordinary privileges, two great doctrines are here set forth; that their God was the God of the whole earth; and, secondly, that he was holy, and required holiness as a term of admission to his presence. The idea of a true and false Israel reappears in the New Testament, and is propounded with peculiar distinctness and emphasis by Paul in Rom. 9:6, 7.

7. Lift up, O gates, your heads, and be lifted up, ye doors of perpetuity! And in will come the king of glory! The procession is now commonly supposed to have arrived at the entrance of the citadel or walled town of Zion, the acropolis of Jerusalem. The gates of this acropolis are those personified in this fine apostrophe. They are called perpetual or everlasting on account of their antiquity, and not in mere anticipation of their subsequent duration, as in 1 Kings 8:13. They are called upon to raise their heads, that he who is about to enter may not debase himself by stooping to pass through them. The connection of the clauses is correctly given, but in a form much more agreeable to the English than the Hebrew idiom, by translating the future as a subjunctive tense, that the king of glory may come in. The king of glory is a phrase analogous to hill of holiness, strength of salvation, &c., and means glorious king.

8. Who is this, the king of glory? Jehovah strong and mighty, Jehovah mighty in battle (or a mighty warrior). The supposition of alternate or responsive choirs is as unnecessary here as in ver. 4 above. It is the case, so common in all animated speech and composition, of a speaker asking a question simply for the purpose of answering it himself. As if he had said, “Do you ask who this king of glory is? It is the Lord,” &c. The common version, Who is this king of glory? does not fully convey the force of the original, the sense of which is, “who is this (of whom you speak as) the king of glory?” The word translated mighty, although properly an adjective, is continually used as a noun substantive, and is the nearest equivalent in Hebrew to the classical term hero. But the simple majesty of David’s language would be marred in a translation by the use of this word, and still more by that of the combination, martial or military hero, in the other clause. The idea, both in this and other places, is borrowed from the Song of Moses, Exod. 15:3.

9. Lift up, O gates, your heads, and lift (them) up, ye doors of perpetuity, and in will come the king of glory. In order to conclude with an emphatic repetition of the epithets in ver. 8, it was necessary that the question in that verse should be repeated likewise; and in order to this the summons in ver. 7 is repeated here, but, as in most like cases, with a variation, which, though slight, relieves the repetition from entire sameness. The variation here consists in the exchange of the passive form, be lifted up, for the corresponding active, lift up, so your heads, the object being readily suggested by the other clause.

10. Who is this, the king of glory? Jehovah (God) of Hosts, he is the king of glory. Selah. Between the question here and in ver. 8 the only variation is one which cannot well be imitated in translation. For the simple Hebrew phrase (מִי־זֶה) Who is this? we have here the fuller form (מִי הוּאִ זֶה), in which the personal pronoun is interposed between the interrogative and demonstrative, so as to suggest the two forms, Who is he? and Who is this? though really constituting but a single question, as the personal pronoun (הוּא), in Hebrew usage, often serves as an index of the substantive when not expressed.—There is a more material variation in the answer, where, instead of the two phrases, Jehovah strong and mighty, Jehovah mighty in battle, the Psalmist substitutes the single but still more expressive title, Jehovah Zebaoth, or of Hosts. In Exodus 12:41, Israel is called the hosts of Jehovah; but a much more frequent designation is the host or hosts of heaven, sometimes applied to the heavenly bodies, especially as objects of idolatrous worship (Deut. 4:19, 17:3, 2 Kings 17:16, Isa. 34:4, Jer. 33:22, Zeph. 1:5, Dan. 8:10), and sometimes to the angels (Jos. 5:14, 15, 1 Kings 22:19, 2 Chron. 18:18, Ps. 103:21, 148:2). In both these senses God may be described as the God of Hosts, i.e. as the sovereign both of the material heavens and of their inhabitants. From the use of hosts in Gen. 2:1, some would extend it to the earth as well as the heavens, and explain the compound title as denoting Lord of the Universe, as Mohammed in the Koran speaks of Allah as the Lord of Worlds. But this explanation, even supposing it to be correct as to the single place on which it rests, derives no countenance from usage elsewhere. Still less admissible is that which makes it simply mean the God of Battles or the God of War, a name and an idea much less scriptural than heathenish. The phrase Jehovah Zebaoth does not occur in the Pentateuch, Joshua or Judges, from which some have inferred that it was afterwards introduced in opposition to the worship of the heavenly bodies, and of the spirits which were supposed to govern and inhabit them. According to the usage of the Hebrew language, Jehovah, as a proper name, cannot be construed with a genitive directly, nor is it ever so connected with any other noun. The anomaly can only be removed by making Zebaoth itself a proper name, or by supplying the word God between it and Jehovah. The first solution may appear to be favored by the σαβαώθ of the Septuagint, retained in Rom. 9:29 and James 5:4. But the other is proved to be the true one by such passages as Hos. 12:6 (5), Amos 4:13, where we have the full form, Jehovah God of Hosts. Compare Ps. 59:6 (5), 80:5 (4), 84:9 (8).—This description of Jehovah as the God of heaven no less than of earth, while it sensibly strengthens the expressions of ver. 8, and thus removes the appearance of a mere tautological reiteration, at the same time brings us back in the conclusion to the point from which we set out in ver. 1, to wit, the universal sovereignty of God. The whole psalm is then brought to a solemn and sonorous close by making the answer echo the terms of the interrogation, He is the king of glory! These points of difference between ver. 8 and 10 impart a beautiful variety to the repeated sentence, without impairing in the least the rhetorical or musical effect of the repetition itself, which is followed only by the customary indication of a pause, both in the sense and the performance. See above, on Ps. 3:3 (2).[1]

 

 

[1] Alexander, J. A. (1864). The Psalms Translated and Explained (pp. 109–113). Edinburgh: Andrew Elliot; James Thin. (Public Domain)

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Psalm 23

A Psalm of David. The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.” (Psalm 23, AV)

Psalm 23

An exquisite description of God’s care over his people under the figure of a shepherd and his flock, no doubt suggested by the writer’s recollections of his own pastoral experience, although probably composed at a much later period of his life. The idea of the whole psalm is contained in ver. 1, carried out and amplified in ver. 2–5, and again summed up, without continuing the metaphor, in ver. 6. The psalm is so constructed as at the same time to express the feelings of the Psalmist, and to serve as a vehicle for those of every individual believer and of the whole body of God’s people for whose use it was intended.

1. A Psalm of David. Jehovah (is) my shepherd, I shall not want. This is the general theme or idea of the whole psalm, that the believer’s relation to Jehovah carries with it necessarily the full supply of all his wants. Spiritual gifts are neither excluded nor exclusively intended. No nice distinction between these and temporal advantages is here made for us, and none need be made by us. The comparison of God’s care to that of a shepherd is first used by Jacob, (Gen. 48:15, 49:24), then by Moses (Deut. 32:6–12, compared with Ps. 78:52), both of whom, like David, had themselves lived a pastoral life. From these the figure is frequently borrowed by the later writers of the Old Testament. See Isa. 40:11, Ezek. 34:12, Micah 7:14, Ps. 80:2 (1), 95:7. This endearing relation of Jehovah to his people was exercised under the old dispensation by the agency of human or angelic messengers, but under the new by Christ, of whom these were only types and representatives (Zech. 13:7), and to whom the figure is expressly applied by himself (John 10:11), and his apostles (1 Peter 2:25, 5:4, Heb. 13:20). From him again, on the principle of delegated representation, is derived the pastoral character of Christian ministers (Eph. 4:11). The future form, I shall not want, includes the present, I do not want, with an additional assurance that the provision will be still continued. The form of expression is derived from Deut 2:7, 8:9, and recurs below, Ps. 34:11 (10).

2. In pastures of verdure he will make me lie down; by waters of rest (or repose) he will lead me. Here begins the amplification of the general proposition in the foregoing verse. The first specification is, that he shall not want healthful and delightful rest. This is expressed by figures borrowed from the exquisite enjoyment of a flock in verdant and well-watered pastures. The allusion, in the first clause, is not to the supply of food, which is mentioned afterwards in ver. 5, but to the refreshing rest and coolness of green meadows. The first noun properly means dwellings, but is applied specifically to the dwellings of flocks, i.e. their pasture-grounds. See below, Ps. 65:13 (12), and compare Amos 1:2, Jer. 9:9 (10), 25:37. The next word in Hebrew means the fresh tender grass, here referred to, not as food, but in allusion to its cooling effect upon the eye and the skin. This explanation is confirmed by the fact, that the act expressed by the verb is not that of eating but of lying down. The verb itself is one which specially denotes the lying down of animals (Gen. 29:2, Num. 22:27, Isa. 11:6), but is sometimes transferred to the human subject (Isa. 14:30, Job. 11:19), or to other objects (Gen. 49:25, Deut. 29:19). By waters, not simply to them, but along them, which is one of the senses of the Hebrew preposition, and affords a much more pleasing image. By waters of rest we are not to understand still or quiet waters, a sense which the Hebrew word has nowhere else, and which would here suggest the idea of stagnation, or at least that of silence, which is far less agreeable than that of an audible flow. The idea really conveyed is that of waters, by or at which rest may be enjoyed. The repose is not that of the waters themselves, but of the flocks reclining near them. The last verb sometimes means to nourish, or more generally to provide for (Gen. 47:17, 2 Chron. 32:22), and the Septuagint version so explains it here. The idea would then be that the shepherd takes care of his flock, or tends it, by the waters of repose. But a more specific act is described, and therefore a more vivid image presented, by retaining the common version, leadeth, which is fully sustained by the use of the same Hebrew verb in Exod. 15:13, 2 Chron. 28:15. The form, however, should be future, as in the preceding verse.

3. My soul he will restore; he will lead me in paths of right (or rectitude) for his name’s sake. To restore the soul, here as in Ps. 19:8 (7), is to vivify or quicken the exhausted spirit. Paths of right may either mean right paths, as opposed to those which are devious and dangerous, or paths of righteousness, not man’s but God’s, not ways of upright conduct on the Psalmist’s part, but ways of faithfulness on God’s part. The righteousness of God, so often appealed to by the ancient saints, includes his covenanted mercy, the exercise of which, according to his promise, was ensured by his essential rectitude. For his name’s sake, not merely for his own sake, nor for his own glory, but for the sake of what he has already done, the previous display of his perfections, which would be dishonored by a failure to fulfil his promises. See above, on Ps. 22:23 (22).

4. Also when I walk into (or through) the valley of death-shade, I will not fear evil, for thou (wilt be) with me; thy rod and thy staff, they will comfort me. He is sure, not only of repose, restoration, and guidance, but of protection. The also shews that something new is to be added; not only this which I have said, but more. The common version (yea, though I walk) is too indefinite and hypothetical. The situation is not spoken of as possible, but certain, though still future.—Death-shade is a strong poetical expression for the profoundest darkness. See below, Ps. 44:20 (19). The common version, shadow of death, conveys more than the original, and fails to reproduce its compound form. The effect is heightened by the mention of a valley, as a deep place, often overhung with woods, and naturally darker than a plain or mountain. There may be some allusion to the dread of darkness on the part of sheep and other timid animals.—The rod and the staff are mentioned, not as weapons of defense, but as badges of the shepherd and as tokens of his presence.

5. Thou wilt spread before me a table in the presence of my adversaries; thou hast anointed with oil my head; my cup (is) overflowing. To the negative benefits before enumerated, he now adds the positive advantage of abundant sustenance. Instead of retaining the image of a sheep and its pasture, the Psalmist substitutes that of a table furnished for a human guest. The connection, however, is so close and the metaphors so near akin, that the general impression remains undisturbed.—In the presence of my enemies implies in spite of them; they are forced to witness my enjoyment without being able to disturb it.—Anointed, literally fattened, in allusion to the richness and abundance of the unction. This was a familiar part of an ancient festal entertainment, and is therefore frequently employed in Scripture as a symbol of joy. See below, on Ps. 45:8 (7).—My cup, my beverage, which, with food, makes up the supply of necessary nutriment, but with the additional suggestion of exhilaration. See above, on Ps. 16:5.—Overflowing, literally overflow, or abundant drink. The change of tense is significant and expressive. What he had just before confidently foreseen, he now describes as actually realized.

6. Only goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of Jehovah to length of days. The specifications of the four preceding verses are followed by another summary expression of the general idea propounded in the first verse, but with a change of form. The Hebrew particle at the beginning has its usual and proper sense of only or exclusively. The favor which he shall experience is so great that he regards it as unmixed, or the exceptions as unworthy of consideration.—The word translated goodness may be understood to mean good fortune, good experienced, as a cognate form does in Ps. 16:2; but the other version agrees better with the parallel expression, mercy. The verb to follow or pursue seems to be chosen in allusion to the persecution of his enemies, and as a strong expression for an unbroken series or succession of divine benefactions. Dwelling in the house of Jehovah does not mean frequenting his sanctuary, but being a member of his household and an inmate of his family, enjoying his protection, holding communion with him, and subsisting on his bounty. See above, on Ps. 15:1.[1]

 

 

[1] Alexander, J. A. (1864). The Psalms Translated and Explained (pp. 107–109). Edinburgh: Andrew Elliot; James Thin. (Public Domain)

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Psalm 22

Psalm 22

To the chief Musician upon Aijeleth Shahar, A Psalm of David. My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? why art thou so far from helping me, and from the words of my roaring? O my God, I cry in the daytime, but thou hearest not; and in the night season, and am not silent. But thou art holy, O thou that inhabitest the praises of Israel. Our fathers trusted in thee: they trusted, and thou didst deliver them. They cried unto thee, and were delivered: they trusted in thee, and were not confounded. But I am a worm, and no man; a reproach of men, and despised of the people. All they that see me laugh me to scorn: they shoot out the lip, they shake the head, saying, He trusted on the LORD that he would deliver him: let him deliver him, seeing he delighted in him. But thou art he that took me out of the womb: thou didst make me hope when I was upon my mother’s breasts. I was cast upon thee from the womb: thou art my God from my mother’s belly. Be not far from me; for trouble is near; for there is none to help. Many bulls have compassed me: strong bulls of Bashan have beset me round. They gaped upon me with their mouths, as a ravening and a roaring lion. I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint: my heart is like wax; it is melted in the midst of my bowels. My strength is dried up like a potsherd; and my tongue cleaveth to my jaws; and thou hast brought me into the dust of death. For dogs have compassed me: the assembly of the wicked have inclosed me: they pierced my hands and my feet. I may tell all my bones: they look and stare upon me. They part my garments among them, and cast lots upon my vesture. But be not thou far from me, O LORD: O my strength, haste thee to help me. Deliver my soul from the sword; my darling from the power of the dog. Save me from the lion’s mouth: for thou hast heard me from the horns of the unicorns. I will declare thy name unto my brethren: in the midst of the congregation will I praise thee. Ye that fear the LORD, praise him; all ye the seed of Jacob, glorify him; and fear him, all ye the seed of Israel. For he hath not despised nor abhorred the affliction of the afflicted; neither hath he hid his face from him; but when he cried unto him, he heard. My praise shall be of thee in the great congregation: I will pay my vows before them that fear him. The meek shall eat and be satisfied: they shall praise the LORD that seek him: your heart shall live for ever. All the ends of the world shall remember and turn unto the LORD: and all the kindreds of the nations shall worship before thee. For the kingdom is the LORD’S: and he is the governor among the nations. All they that be fat upon earth shall eat and worship: all they that go down to the dust shall bow before him: and none can keep alive his own soul. A seed shall serve him; it shall be accounted to the Lord for a generation. They shall come, and shall declare his righteousness unto a people that shall be born, that he hath done this.” (Psalm 22:title–31, AV)

Psalm 22

The subject of this Psalm is the deliverance of a righteous sufferer from his enemies, and the effect of this deliverance on others. It is so framed as to be applied without violence to any case belonging to the class described, yet so that it was fully verified only in Christ, the head and representative of the class in question. The immediate speaker in the psalm is an ideal person, the righteous servant of Jehovah, but his words may, to a certain extent, be appropriated by any suffering believer, and by the whole suffering church, as they have been in all ages.

The psalm may be divided into three nearly equal parts. The first pleads the necessity of God’s interposition, arising from his covenant relation to the sufferer, ver. 2–11 (1–10). The second argues the same thing from the imminence of the danger, ver. 12–22 (11–21). The third declares the glorious effects which must follow from an answer to the foregoing prayer, ver. 23–32 (22–31). Ver. 12 (11) and 22 (21) form connecting links between the first and second, second and third parts.

1. To the Chief Musician. On the hind of the morning. A Psalm by David. Designed for the permanent use of the church, and therefore not relating to mere individual or private interests. The second clause of the inscription is one of those enigmatical titles in which David seems to have delighted. See above, on Ps. 5:1, 7:1, 9:1, 16:1. The opinion that it refers to the melody or subject of some other poem, is less probable than that it describes the theme of this. The hind may then be a poetical figure for persecuted innocence, and the morning, or rather dawn, for deliverance after long distress. Compare 2 Sam. 1:19, Prov. 6:5, Isa. 13:14, with Isa. 8:20, 47:11, 58:8, 10, Hos. 6:3, 10:15. The use of such emblems here is less surprising, as this psalm abounds in figures drawn from the animal kingdom. See below, ver. 13 (12), 14 (13), 17 (16), 21 (20), 22 (21).

2 (1). My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me, far from my deliverance, the words of my roaring? In this verse and the next we have the sufferer’s complaint, the summary description of his danger and distress, the highest point of which is here described as the sense of desertion or abandonment on God’s part. “Why hast thou left me so to suffer, that I cannot but consider myself finally deserted?” The use of these words by our Savior on the cross, with a slight variation from the Hebrew (Mat. 27:46, Mark 15:34), shews how eminently true the whole description is of him, but does not make him the exclusive subject. The divine name here used is the one descriptive of God’s power (אֵל), and may therefore be considered as including the idea of my strength. “Why hast thou, whom I regarded as my strength, my support, and my protector, thus forsaken me in this extremity?” The last clause admits of several constructions. “Far from my deliverance (are) the words of my roaring,” i.e. they are far from having the effect of saving me. Or the question may be repeated: (Why art thou) far from my help and the words of my roaring?” Or the same idea may be expressed by a simple affirmation; “(Thou art) far from my help,” &c. But the simplest construction is to put these words into apposition with the object of address in the first clause, and throw the whole into one sentence. “Why hast thou forsaken me, (standing or remaining) far from my help, i.e. too far off to help and save me, or even to hear the words of my roaring?” This last combination shews that although the figure of roaring is borrowed from the habits of the lower animals, the subject to which it is applied must be a human one, and as such capable of articulate speech. The roaring of the psalmist was not the mere instinctive utterance of physical distress, but the complaint of an intelligent and moral agent. Compare Isaiah 38:14.

3 (2). My God, I call by day and thou wilt not answer, and by night and there is no silence to me. The divine name here used is the common Hebrew word for God, denoting an object of religious worship. I call, literally I shall call, implying a sorrowful conviction that his cries will still be vain. Thou wilt not hear or answer: the original expression is a verb specifically appropriated to the favorable reception of a prayer. See above, on Ps. 3:5 (4), Day and night, i.e. without intermission. See above, on Ps. 1:2. No silence implies no answer, and the parallelism is therefore an exact one.

4 (3). And thou (art) holy, inhabiting the praises of Israel. Here begins his statement of the grounds on which he might claim to be heard, and all which may be summed up in this, that Jehovah was the covenant God of Israel. The word translated holy, in its widest sense, includes all that distinguishes God from creatures, not excepting what are usually termed his natural perfections. Hence the epithet is often found connected with descriptions of his power, eternity, &c. See Isa. 6:3; 40:25, 26; 57:15; Hab. 3:3; Ps. 111:9. The primary meaning of the verb appears to be that of separation, which may here be alluded to, in reference to Jehovah’s peculiar relation to the chosen people. Or it may be taken in its wider and higher sense, leaving the other to be expressed in the last clause. “Thou art the glorious and perfect God who inhabitest the praises of Israel,” i.e. dwellest among those praises, and art constantly surrounded by them. Some prefer, however, to retain the primary meaning of the Hebrew verb, sitting (enthroned upon) the praises of Israel.

5 (4). In thee trusted our fathers; they trusted and thou savedst them. Not only was Jehovah the covenant God of Israel, and as such bound to help his people, but he had actually helped them in time past. This is urged as a reason why he should not refuse to help the sufferer in this case. The plural form, our fathers, makes the prayer appropriate to the whole church, without rendering it less so to the case of Christ, or to that of the individual believer.

6 (5.) To thee they cried and were delivered; in thee they trusted, and were not ashamed. This last word is continually used in Scripture for the disappointment and frustration of the hopes. The argument of this verse lies in the tacit contrast between the case referred to and that of the sufferer himself. As if he had said, “How is it then that I cry and am not delivered, I trust and am confounded or ashamed?”

7 (6). And I (am) a worm, and not a man; a reproach of men, and despised of the people. The pronoun expressed at the beginning is emphatic. I, as contrasted with my fathers. Our idiom would here require an adversative particle, but I, the use of which is much less frequent in Hebrew. See above, on Ps. 2:6. The insignificance and meanness of mankind in general are elsewhere denoted by the figure of a worm (Job 25:6). But even in comparison with these, the sufferer is a worm, i.e. an object of contemptuous pity, because apparently forsaken of God, and reduced to a desperate extremity. (Compare Isa. 41:14, and 1 Sam. 24:15.) A reproach of mankind, despised by them, and disgraceful to them.—The people, not a single person or a few, but the community at large.

8 (7). All seeing me mock at me; they pout with the lip; they shake the head. This is an amplification of the last clause of the verse preceding. The verb in the second member of the sentence is of doubtful meaning. It may either mean to stretch the mouth, or to part the lips with a derisive grin. (See Ps. 35:21, Job 16:10.) The shaking of the head may be either a vague gesture of contempt, or the usual expression of negation, by a lateral or horizontal motion, equivalent to saying “No, no!” i.e. there is no hope for him. Either of these explanations is more probable than that which applies the words to a vertical movement of the head or nodding, in token of assent, and acquiescence in the sufferings of the sufferer, as just and right. The peculiar gesture here described is expressly attributed by the evangelists to the spectators of our Savior’s crucifixion (Mat. 27:39, Mark 15:29). It is one of those minor coincidences, which, although they do not constitute the main subject of the prophecy, draw attention to it, and help us to identify it.

9 (8). Trust in Jehovah! He will deliver him, he will save him, for he delights in him. The literal meaning of the first clause is, roll to (or on) Jehovah, which would be unintelligible but for the parallel expressions in Ps. 37:5, roll thy way upon Jehovah, and in Prov. 16:3, roll thy work upon Jehovah, where the idea is evidently that of a burden cast upon another by one who is unable to sustain it himself. This burden, in the first case, is his way, i.e. his course of life, his fortune, his destiny, and in the other case, his work, i.e. his business, his affairs, his interest. In evident allusion to these places, the apostle Peter says, casting all your care upon him, for he careth for you (1 Pet. 5:7). By these three parallels light is thrown on the elliptical expression now before us, roll, i.e. thy burden or thy care upon Jehovah.—A further difficulty is occasioned by the form of the original, which, according to usage, must be either the infinitive construct or the second person of the imperative. But as these seem out of place in such a context, some arbitrarily explain it as an absolute infinitive, or a third person imperative, or change the form to that of a preterite. This last is the construction in the Septuagint version retained in the New Testament (Mat. 27:43), and really included in the Hebrew, but by no means an exact representation of its form. Perhaps the best solution of the syntax is to make this clause a quotation, or derisive repetition of the sufferer’s own words, as if they had said, “This is he who was so fond of repeating the precept, Trust in Jehovah! Let him now try its virtue in his own case. He in whom he has trusted, and exhorted others to trust also, will no doubt deliver him.” The next two verbs are ironical futures, not imperatives, and should be so translated.—The last words of the verse (חָפֵץ בּוֹ) are always applied elsewhere to God’s complacency in man, and not to man’s reciprocal delight in God. The Septuagint version, retained in the New Testament, if he will (have) him, or if he will (deliver) him, although not incorrect, is much inferior in strength to the original.—By appropriating these words, the spectators of our Lord’s sufferings identified themselves with the wicked persecutors, by whom they are here supposed to be originally uttered.

10 (9). For thou didst draw me from the womb, making me trust upon the breasts of my mother. The argument from past time is here pushed still further. God had not only shewn himself to be the God of the sufferer’s forefathers, but of the sufferer himself in early life. The for connects this verse with the last clause of the one preceding. What his enemies ironically said was seriously true. God had indeed delighted in him once, for it was he that brought him into life, and through the perils of infancy. Thou didst draw me, literally, thou (art or wast) my breaking forth, i.e. the cause of it, as God is said to be the light, joy, strength of the believer, i.e. the source or the dispenser of these blessings.—Made me trust, does not refer to the literal exercise of confidence in God, which could not be asserted of a suckling, but means gave me cause to trust or feel secure, in other words, secured me, kept me safe. The original construction is, making me trust, but the Hebrew infinitive and participle used in these two clauses may be here represented by the past tense of the English verb.—As applied to the whole church or chosen people, this verse may be considered as descriptive of God’s dealings with them at the exodus from Egypt, which is elsewhere metaphorically represented as a birth. The direct and obvious reference, however, is to individual birth and infancy.

11 (10). Upon thee was I cast from the womb; from the bowels of my mother, my God (art) thou. Into thy arms I was at first received, as into those of an affectionate parent. See Ruth 4:16, and compare the opposite use of the same figure in Ezek. 16:5. In the last clause we are brought back to the point from which we set out, the sufferer having, in the mean time, as it were, established his right to say, my God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?

12 (11). Be not far from me, for distress is near, for there is no helper. Having shewn that he was justified in expecting that God would not forsake him in extremity, he now shews that the extremity exists. The first clause constitutes the link of connection between the first and second subdivisions of the psalm. “Since, then, thou art my God, and as such must be near in my distress, Oh be not far from me now, for my distress is near, and there is no one else to help me.”—Near is not put in opposition to proximity or actual contact, but to distance. The particular form of expression was suggested by the prayer in the first clause. It was no time for God to be afar off, when trouble was so near, so close upon the sufferer.—The second for may be subordinated to the first, and introduce a reason for declaring that distress was near. But it is much more natural to make the two co-relative, and understand the second as suggesting an additional reason for the prayer, be not far from me.

13 (12). Many bulls have compassed me, strong bulls of Bashan have surrounded me. He now proceeds to amplify the last clause of the foregoing verse, by shewing that trouble was indeed at hand. The strength and fierceness of his persecutors are expressed by comparing them to cattle fed in the rich and solitary pastures of Bashan, where the absence of men would of course increase their wildness. Corresponding to the noun in the first clause is an epithet frequently applied to it in Hebrew.

14 (13). They have opened upon me their mouth, a lion tearing and roaring. The tropical nature of the language is evinced by the entire change of figure in this verse. The same persons who before were bulls of Bashan now appear as a ravening and roaring lion. There is no need of supplying a particle of comparison, the absence of which in both these verses, by substituting metaphor for simile, adds greatly to the life of the description.

15 (14). Like water I am poured out, and all my bones are parted; my heart has become like wax, melted in the midst of my bowels. Similar terms are used in Josh. 7:5, Lam. 2:19, to describe dismay and fear; but in the case before us they seem rather descriptive of extreme weakness. See Ps. 58:8 (7), 2 Sam. 14:14, and compare the symbolical action in 1 Sam. 7:6. The comparison with water is applied to moral weakness also in Gen. 49:4. The parting of the bones may either denote dislocation or extreme emaciation, making the bones prominent. In either case the essential idea is still that of desperate exhaustion and debility.

16 (15). Dried like the potsherd (is) my strength, and my tongue fastened to my jaws, and to the dust of death thou wilt reduce me. The description of debility is still continued. He is as destitute of vigor as a broken piece of earthenware is of sap or moisture.—Fastened, literally, made to cleave or stick, through dryness.—The dust of death, i.e. the grave, the place of burial, or more generally, the debased, humiliated state of the dead.—Thou wilt place me in it, or reduce me to it. The translation of this future as a preterite is not only ungrammatical, but hurtful to the sense, as the idea evidently is, that this is something not experienced already, but the end to which his sufferings are tending. The direct address to God recognizes him as the sovereign disposer, and men only as his instruments.

17 (16). For dogs have surrounded me, a crowd of evil-doers have beset me, piercing my hands and my feet. He now resumes the description of his persecutors, under figures borrowed from the animal kingdom. The comparison with dogs is much less forcible to us than to an oriental reader, because dogs in the east are less domesticated, more gregarious, wilder, and objects not of affection, but abhorrence, as peculiarly unclean. In the next clause the figurative dress is thrown aside, and the dogs described as an assembly of malefactors. The first noun seems intended to suggest the idea of a whole community or organized body as engaged in the persecution. See above, on people, in ver. 7 (6). This makes the passage specially appropriate to the sufferings of our Savior at the hands both of the mob and of the government. The Hebrew word is one of those applied in the Old Testament to the whole congregation of Israel. (See above, on Ps. 1:5, and compare Exod. 12:3, 16:1, 2, 9, Num. 27:17, Lev. 4:15.) The last clause, as above translated, contains a striking reference to our Savior’s crucifixion, which some have striven to expunge, by denying that the ancients nailed the feet as well as the hands to the cross. But although there is a singular absence of explicit declaration on the subject, both in the classical and sacred writers, the old opinion, that the feet were pierced, may be considered as completely verified by modern investigation and discussion. So far, therefore, as the question of usage is concerned, we can have no difficulty in referring this clause to our Savior’s crucifixion, and regarding it as one of those remarkable coincidences, some of which have been already noticed, all designed and actually tending to identify our Lord as the most prominent subject of the prophecy. It is very remarkable, however, that no citation or application of the clause occurs in any of the gospels. It is also worthy of remark that the clause, thus explained, although highly appropriate to one part of our Savior’s passion, is, unlike the rest of the description, hardly applicable, even in a figurative sense, to the case of any other sufferer. Even supposing the essential idea to be merely that of wounds inflicted on the body, it seems strange that it should be expressed in the specific and unusual form of piercing the hands and the feet. On further inspection it appears that, in order to obtain this meaning, we must either change the text (כָּֽאֵרוּ or כָּֽאֲרֵי for כָּֽאֲרִי) or assume a plural form so rare that some grammarians deny its existence altogether (כָּֽאֲרִי for כָּֽאֲרִים), and an equally rare form of the participle (כָּֽאֲרִים for כָּרִים), and a meaning of the verb itself which nowhere else occurs, but must be borrowed from a cognate root (כּוּר for כָּרָה); an accumulation of grammatical and lexicographical anomalies, which cannot be assumed without the strongest exegetical necessity, and this can exist only if the words admit of no other explanation more in accordance with analogy and usage. Now the very same form in Isa. 38:13, is unquestionably used to mean like the lion, and a slight modification of the same, in Num. 24:9, Ezek. 22:25, like a lion. This idea would be here the more appropriate, because the psalm abounds in such allusions, and because the lion is expressly mentioned both before and afterwards. See above, ver. 14 (13), and below, ver. 22 (21). The sense would then be: “they surround my hands and my feet, as they would a lion,” or, “as a lion would,” i.e. with the strength and fierceness of a lion. The hands and feet may be mentioned as the parts used in defense and flight. That the mention of these parts, after all, in connection with the lion is not altogether natural, cannot fairly be denied, and this objection should have all the weight to which it is entitled. But whether it can outweigh the grammatical difficulties that attend the other construction, is a serious question, which ought not to be embarrassed by any supposed conflict with New Testament authority, since no citation of the clause occurs there. It may even be possible to reconcile the two interpretations by supplying a verb and giving כָּֽאֲרִי its usual meaning. “Like the lion (they have wounded) my hands and my feet.” The point of comparison would then be the infliction of sharp wounds in those parts of the body, an idea common to the habits of the lion, and to the usages of crucifixion.

18 (17). I tell all my bones (while) they look and stare upon me. The pronoun of the last clause is expressed in Hebrew, which removes the ambiguity of the construction, by shewing that the subject of the following verbs is not the bones of the preceding clause, but something more remote, namely, the sufferer’s enemies and persecutors. The ambiguity of the English word tell corresponds to that of the Hebrew (אֲסַפֵּר), which means both to number and to relate, to count and to recount. Some suppose, not improbably, that this verse presents the sufferer as stripped by his enemies, and looking with grief and wonder at his own emaciation, while they gaze at it with delight, as the Hebrew phrase implies. See below, on Ps. 27:13.

19 (18). They (are about to) divide my garments for themselves, and on my clothing they (are ready to) cast lots. This is the last stroke necessary to complete the picture. Having stripped him, nothing more is left but to appropriate his garments, whether from cupidity or in derision. The futures intimate that things can go no further without actual loss of life, and that the case is therefore an extreme one. The providential realization of this ideal scene in our Lord’s history is expressly mentioned by all the four evangelists (Mat. 27:35, Mark 15:24, Luke 23:34, John 19:23, 24). This makes their silence as to ver. 17 (16) the more remarkable.

20 (19). And thou, Jehovah, be not far; my strength! to my assistance hasten. The pronoun in the first clause is emphatic. “Such is the conduct of my enemies; but as for thee, O Lord, be not far from me.” The word translated strength is used in this place only, and apparently in reference to the name of God with which the psalm begins (אֵלִי) and to the word hind (אַיֶּלֶת) in the title, both which are akin to it in etymology.

21 (20). Free from the sword my life (or soul), from the hand of the dog my lonely one (or only one). The sword is a general expression for life-destroying agents. See 2 Sam. 11:24, 25, where it is applied to archery.—My life, my soul, i.e. myself considered as a living person.—The apparent solecism, hand of the dog, shews that both terms are figurative, or as one has quaintly expressed it, that the dog meant is a dog with hands. See above, on ver. 17 (16), where the plural dogs is co-extensive in its meaning with the ideal or collective singular in this place.—My only (life), the only one I have to lose, is a good sense in itself, both here and in Ps. 35:17; but the analogy of Ps. 25:16, and 68:7 (6), recommends the sense of solitary, lonely, which is admissible in all the places.

22 (21). Save me from the mouth of the lion, and from the horns of the unicorns thou hast heard (or answered) me. The petition in the first clause is directly followed by an expression of confident assurance that his prayer will be answered, or rather that it is already heard, corresponding to the figurative expression in ver. 3 (2), thou wilt not hear (or answer), where the same Hebrew verb is used.—From the horns denotes of course the place from which the prayer proceded, not the answer. The figure is a strong one for the midst of danger. The name of any wild horned animal would be appropriate. The precise sense of the Hebrew word (רֵמִים) is therefore comparatively unimportant. The common version unicorns rests on the authority of the Septuagint; but although the unicorn, long regarded as a fabulous animal, has now been proved to be a real one, we have no reason to believe that it was ever known in Palestine, or to dissent from the common judgment of the learned, that the Hebrew word denotes the wild bull or a species of the antelope, most probably the former.

23 (22). I will declare thy name to my brethren, in the midst of the assembly I will praise thee. His certainty of audience and acceptance is further expressed by declaring his intention to give thanks for it.—To declare God’s name, in Scripture usage, is to celebrate the acts by which he has manifested his perfections. See above, on Ps. 5:12 (11).—The assembly, or congregation of Israel, to which the Hebrew word is constantly applied (Lev. 16:17, Deut. 31:30), whether present in person or by their representatives (2 Chron. 20:13–15). The same sense of the word occurs below, Ps. 35:18, 40:10 (9). The idea here is that his praise shall not be merely private or domestic, but public.

24 (23). Fearers of Jehovah, praise him! All the seed of Jacob, glorify him! And be afraid of him, all the seed of Israel! These words are uttered, as it were, in the midst of the ideal congregation mentioned in the verse preceding. That the call, though formally addressed to the whole race, was really intended for the spiritual Israel, excluding wicked Israelites and including the righteous of whatever name or nation, is indicated by the words of the first clause, while the last shews that the praise required is not familiar, but in the highest degree reverential.

25 (24). For he has not despised and not abhorred the suffering of the sufferer, and has not hid his face from him, and, in his crying to him, heard. This is the ground on which the fearers of the Lord are called upon to praise him, namely, the faithful execution of his promise to the sufferer in this case, and the pledge thereby afforded of like faithfulness in every other.

26 (25). From thee (shall be) my praise in (the) great congregation; my vows I will pay before his fearers, those who fear him. From thee is something more than of thee. It does not merely indicate the theme or subject, but the source or cause of his thanksgiving. “It is thou who givest me occasion thus to praise thee.” In the last clause there seems to be a reference to the sacrificial feasts connected with the fulfilment of vows made in distress or danger. (See Deut. 12:18, 16:11.) These were occasions of festivity, not only to the offerer and his nearest friends, but to a wide circle of invited guests, which makes the metaphor peculiarly appropriate in this place. The essential idea is the same as in ver. 23 (22).—His fearers, worshippers, the true Israel, as distinguished from the mere natural descendants of the patriarch.

27 (26). (Then) shall eat (thereof) the humble, and be satisfied; (then) shall praise Jehovah those who seek him. May your heart live for ever! The adverb then is here supplied in the translation, in order to retain the Hebrew order of the sentence. The word thereof is introduced to remove all ambiguity of syntax, and to connect the act of eating with the sacrificial feast of the foregoing verse.—To seek God, in the dialect of Scripture, is to seek to know him, and also to seek his favor, not only by specific acts of prayer, but by the whole course of the life. See above, on Ps. 14:2.—The concluding wish, your heart live for ever, comprehends an assurance that it shall live. The heart is said to die, in cases of extreme grief and distress. See 1 Sam. 25:37, and compare Ps. 109:22. The objects of address are those who seek and praise God. The sudden change of person is analogous to that in ver. 26 (25), which begins from thee, and ends with fearing him. That this is not an inadvertent irregularity, appears from its recurrence in the next verse.—The humble and the seekers of Jehovah are parallel descriptions of the same class, namely, true believers, those who are elsewhere called the righteous.

28 (27). Remember and return to Jehovah shall all the ends of the earth, and worship before thee all the kindreds of the nations. As the joyful effects of this deliverance were not to be restricted to himself or his domestic circle, but extended to the great congregation of God’s people, so too we now read that they shall not be confined to any one race, but made to embrace all. The ends of the earth, here put for the remotest nations. See above, on Ps. 2:8. These are named as the least likely to be comprehended in the promise, but of course without excluding those less distant. As if he had said, the ends of the earth and all that is between them. In the other clause, accordingly, we find as a parallel expression, not the furthest, but all nations. They shall remember this deliverance, this exhibition of God’s faithfulness and might, and shall turn unto Jehovah, be converted to his worship and his service. Some suppose an allusion to the great original apostasy, or to the temporary casting off of the Gentiles: they shall remember their original condition, and return unto the Lord, from whom they have revolted. But this, though true and really implied, is not the strict sense of the words, which would then have no perceptible connection with the general subject of the psalm, and the immediate occasion of the praise which it contains.—Worship, literally prostrate themselves, the accustomed oriental indication both of civil and religious worship.—The form of expression in the last clause is evidently borrowed from the patriarchal promise. Compare Gen. 12:3, 28:14.

29 (28). For unto Jehovah is the kingdom, and (he is) governor among the nations. This will not be a gratuitous extension to the Gentiles of what properly belongs to Israel alone, but a restoration of God’s mercies, after ages of restriction, to their original and proper scope. For Jehovah is not the king of Israel only, but of all mankind. See Rom. 3:29.—The kingdom, i.e. general ecumenical dominion.—Governor, properly a participle, ruling, the use of which may be intended to suggest that as he has always been their governor de jure, so now he begins to govern them de facto, not with a providential sway, which is invariable as well as universal, but with a spiritual sway, which is hereafter to be co-extensive with the earth itself. Compare the similar expressions, Obad. 21, Zech. 14:9, and the still closer parallels, Ps. 96:10, 97:1, 99:1.

30 (29). They have eaten and worshipped—all the fat (ones) of the earth—before him shall bend all going down (to) the dust, and (he who) his own soul did not save alive. The distinction of ranks shall be as little regarded at this feast as that of nations.—Eaten and worshipped, partaken of the sacrificial feast in honor of this great salvation. Fat, a common oriental figure for the prosperous, and especially the rich. These are particularly mentioned to exhibit a peculiar feature of the feast in question, which was not, like the sacrificial feasts of the Mosaic law, designed expressly for the poor, though these are not excluded, as appears from the parallel clause.—Going down to the dust, i.e. the dust of death, as in ver. 16 (15) above. Compare the analogous expressions used in Ps. 28:1, 4, 9 (3, 9), 88:5 (4), 115:17, 143:7. The idea is, that this enjoyment shall be common to the rich and those who are ready to perish, or as it is expressed in the last clause, he who cannot keep his soul (or himself) alive, a strong expression for the extreme of destitution. He who before, or a little while ago, no longer kept himself alive, but was just about to perish, is now seen kneeling at the sacrificial feast in honor of this great salvation.

31 (30). Posterity shall serve him; it shall be related of the Lord to the (next) generation. The last restriction to be done away is that of time. The effects of this salvation shall no more be confined to the present generation than to the higher classes of society, or the natural descendants of the patriarchs.—A seed, i.e. posterity, the seed of those who witness or first hear of the event.—Shall serve him, i.e. worship and obey Jehovah, the same thing that is expressed by eating and bowing down in ver. 30 (29) above. The means of this conversion shall be the perpetuated knowledge of what God has done.—Generation is used absolutely, as in Ps. 71:18, where it means not this generation, but the next. The complete phrase (דור אחרון) occurs below, Ps. 48:14 (13), 78:4. The Lord. The original is not Jehovah, but Adhonai, the divine name properly denoting sovereignty. See above, on Ps. 2:4, 21:2. The exposition above given of the verse before us is equally agreeable to usage, and much better suited to the context, than the one which makes it mean that a seed shall be reckoned by the Lord (as belonging) to the generation, i.e. to the generation of his people. (See below, on Ps. 24:6.) It is highly improbable that the passive verb (יְסֻפַּר) has a meaning wholly different from that of the corresponding active form (אֲסַפְּרָה) in ver. 23 (22) above.

32 (31). They shall come and shall declare his righteousness to a people born, that he hath done (it). The subjects of the first verbs are the seed and generation of the preceding verse. They shall come into existence, shall appear upon the scene. But even they shall not monopolize the knowledge thus imparted, but communicate it to a people now unborn, but then born, i.e. to their own successors. The construction of the participle as a future is unnecessary, although not unauthorized by usage. See above, on Ps. 18:4 (3). Compare with this verse the beautiful figures of Ps. 19:3 (2).—His righteousness, including the faithful execution of his gracious promise. The last clause gives the substance of the declaration to be made, to wit, that he has done what forms the subject of the whole psalm. A similar ellipsis of the object, where the context readily supplies it, may be found above in ver. 27, 28, 30 (26, 27, 29). To these words it is supposed by some that our Lord alluded in his dying exclamation, It is finished! (John 19:30). The allusion, though not obvious, is interesting, as it brings the beginning and the end of this remarkable psalm into connection with each other and with that affecting scene to which there are so many clear and pointed references in the whole composition; thus completing, as it were, the proof, already strong enough, that Christ is the great subject of the psalm, as being the great type and representative of that whole class to whom it ostensibly relates, but of whom some parts, and especially the last five verses, are true only in a modified and lower sense.[1]

 

 

[1] Alexander, J. A. (1864). The Psalms Translated and Explained (pp. 98–107). Edinburgh: Andrew Elliot; James Thin. (Public Domain)

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Psalm 21

Psalm 21

To the chief Musician, A Psalm of David. The king shall joy in thy strength, O LORD; and in thy salvation how greatly shall he rejoice! Thou hast given him his heart’s desire, and hast not withholden the request of his lips. Selah. For thou preventest him with the blessings of goodness: thou settest a crown of pure gold on his head. He asked life of thee, and thou gavest it him, even length of days for ever and ever. His glory is great in thy salvation: honor and majesty hast thou laid upon him. For thou hast made him most blessed for ever: thou hast made him exceeding glad with thy countenance. For the king trusteth in the LORD, and through the mercy of the most High he shall not be moved. Thine hand shall find out all thine enemies: thy right hand shall find out those that hate thee. Thou shalt make them as a fiery oven in the time of thine anger: the LORD shall swallow them up in his wrath, and the fire shall devour them. Their fruit shalt thou destroy from the earth, and their seed from among the children of men. For they intended evil against thee: they imagined a mischievous device, which they are not able to perform. Therefore shalt thou make them turn their back, when thou shalt make ready thine arrows upon thy strings against the face of them. Be thou exalted, LORD, in thine own strength: so will we sing and praise thy power.” (Psalm 21, AV)

As in the eighteenth psalm, David publicly thanks God for the promises contained in 2 Sam. 7, so here he puts a similar thanksgiving into the month of the church or chosen people. In ver. 2–7 (1–6), the address is to Jehovah, and the king is spoken of in the third person. In ver. 8 (7) this form of speech is used in reference to both. In ver. 9–13 (8–12) the address is to the king. In ver. 14 (13) it returns to Jehovah. As to the substance or contents of these successive parts, the first praises God for what he has bestowed upon the king, ver. 2–7 (1–6). In the second, there is a transition to another theme, ver. 8 (7). The third congratulates the king on what he is to do and to enjoy through the divine mercy, ver. 9–13 (8–12). The fourth returns to the point from which the whole set out, ver. 14 (13). The opinion that this psalm relates to the fulfilment of the prayer in that before it, seems to be inconsistent with its structure and contents as just described. They are rather parallel than consecutive, the principal difference being this, that while the twentieth psalm relates to the specific case of assistance and success in war, the twenty-first has reference to the whole circle of divine gifts bestowed upon the Lord’s Anointed.

1. To the Chief Musician. A Psalm by David. The correctness of the first inscription is apparent from the structure of the psalm, throughout which the speaker is the ancient church. The correctness of the other may be argued from the general resemblance of the style to that of the Davidic psalms, from numerous coincidences of expression with the same, and from the tone of lively hope which seems to indicate the recent date of the divine communication, especially when compared with psalms which otherwise resemble it, such as the eighty-ninth. The particular resemblance between this psalm and the twentieth makes them mutually testify to one another’s genuineness and authenticity.

2 (1). Jehovah, in thy strength shall the king rejoice, and in thy salvation how shall he exult! This verse commences the description of God’s favor to the king with a general statement, afterwards amplified in ver. 3–7 (2–6). Thy strength, as imparted to him, or as exercised in his deliverance, which last agrees best with the parallel expression, thy salvation, i.e. thy deliverance of him from the evils which he felt or feared. In thy strength and salvation, i.e. in the contemplation and experience of it. The future verbs shew that the gift has not yet been consummated, without excluding the idea of it as begun already.

3 (2). The desire of his heart thou hast given unto him, and the quest of his lips hast not withholden. Selah. The occasion of the joy and exultation mentioned in the preceding verse is now more particularly set forth. It is easy to imagine, although not recorded, that the great promise in the seventh chapter of 2 Samuel was in answer to the fervent and long-continued prayers of David for a succession in his own family.—The word translated quest occurs only here, but its sense is determined by the parallelism and the Arabic analogy. The combination of the positive and negative expressions of the same idea (given and not withholden) is a favorite Hebrew idiom.

4 (3). For thou wilt come before him with blessings of goodness, thou wilt set upon his head a crown of gold. This, as Luther observes, is an answer to the question what he had desired. The for connects it with the statement in the foregoing verse, which is here explained and justified. As the preterites in ver. 3 (2) shew that his request was granted in the divine purpose, so the futures here shew how it was to be fulfilled in fact. Come before, come to meet in a friendly manner. See above, on Ps. 17:13, 18:6 (5), and compare Deut. 23:5 (4).—Blessings of good, not blessings prompted by the divine goodness, but conferring, or consisting in, good fortune, happiness. See above, on Ps. 16:2.—The reference in the last clause is not to David’s literal coronation at the beginning of his reign, nor to the golden crown which he took from the Ammonitish king of Rabbah (2 Sam. 12:30), but to his ideal coronation by the granting of these glorious favors to himself and his successors. The divine communication in the seventh of 2 Samuel seems to be here viewed, as the only real coronation of David as a theocratic sovereign. The last word in the sentence is the same that was translated pure gold when contrasted with the ordinary word for gold, Ps. 19:11 (10).

5 (4). Life he asked of thee, thou hast given (it) to him, length of days, perpetuity and eternity. By disregarding the masoretic interpunction, the construction may be simplified without a change of sense. “Life he asked of thee, thou hast given him length of days,” &c. The last words of the verse are often used adverbially to mean for ever and ever; but as they are both nouns, it is best to put them here in apposition with the same part of speech which immediately precedes. This last clause shews that the life which David prayed for was not personal longevity, but the indefinite continuation of his race, an honor which was granted to him, even beyond his hopes and wishes, in the person of our Savior. Compare 2 Sam. 7:13, 16. Ps. 89:5 (4), 132:12.

6 (5). Great shall be his majesty in thy salvation; glory and honor thou wilt put upon him. His personal experience of God’s saving grace, and his connection with the great scheme of salvation for mankind, would raise him to a dignity far beyond that of any other monarch, and completely justifying even the most exalted terms used in Scripture, from the charge of adulation or extravagance.

7 (6). For thou wilt make him a blessing to eternity; thou wilt gladden him with joy by thy countenance (or presence). He shall not only be blessed himself, but a blessing to others, the idea and expression being both derived from the promise to Abraham in Gen. 12:2, an allusion which serves also to connect the Davidic with the Abrahamic covenant, and thus to preserve unbroken the great chain of Messianic prophecies. Make him a blessing, literally, place him for (or constitute him) blessing. The plural form suggests variety and fullness, as in Ps. 18:51 (50), 20:7 (6). By thy countenance, or with thy face, i.e. by looking on him graciously, not merely in thy presence or before thee, as the place of the enjoyment, but by the sight of thee, as its cause or source. See above, on Ps. 16:11.

8 (7). For the king (is) trusting in Jehovah, and in the grace of the Most High he shall not be moved. The consummation of this glorious promise was indeed far distant, but to the eye of faith distinctly visible. In the grace seems to mean something more than through the grace (or favor) of the Most High, as the ground of his assurance, or the source of his security. The words appear to qualify the verb itself, and to denote that he shall not be shaken from his present standing in God’s favor. The use of the third person in this verse, with reference both to God and the king, makes it a kind of connecting link between the direct address to God in the first part of the psalm, and the direct address to the king in the second.

9 (8). Thy hand shall find out all thine enemies; thy right hand shall find (those) hating thee. Having shewn what God would do for his Anointed, the psalm now describes what the latter shall accomplish through divine assistance. Corresponding to this variation in the subject, is that in the object of address, which has been already noticed. By a kind of climax in the form of expression, hand is followed by right hand, a still more emphatic sign of active strength. To find, in this connection, includes the ideas of detecting and reaching. Compare 1 Sam. 23:17, Isa. 10:10; in the latter of which places the verb is construed with a preposition (ל), as it is in the first clause of the verse before us, whereas in the other clause it governs the noun directly. If any difference of meaning was intended, it is probably not greater than that between find and find out in English.

10 (9). Thou shalt make them like a fiery furnace at the time of thy presence; Jehovah in his wrath shall swallow them up, and fire shall devour them. The ascription of this destroying agency to God in the last clause serves to shew that the king acts merely as his instrument. Thou shalt make, literally set or place, i.e. put them in such or such a situation. A fiery furnace, literally a furnace (or oven) of fire. To make them like a furnace here means, not to make them the destroyers of others, but, by a natural abbreviation, to make them as if they were in a fiery furnace. At the time of thy presence, literally thy face, which may be understood to mean, when thou lookest at them.

11 (10). Their fruit shalt thou make to perish from the earth, and their seed from (among) the sons of man (or Adam). This extends the threatened destruction of the enemies to all their generations. The same figurative use of fruit occurs in Hos. 9:16.

12 (11). For they stretched out evil over thee; they devised a plot; they shall not be able (to effect it). The figure of the first clause is the same as in 1 Chron. 21:10. (Compare 2 Sam. 24:12.) The idea here is that they threatened to bring evil on thee. As the verb to be able is sometimes used absolutely, it is translated, they shall not prevail.

13 (12). For thou shalt make them turn their back; with thy (bow) strings shalt make ready against their face. The common version of the first word (therefore) is not only contrary to usage, but disturbs the sense by obscuring the connection with the foregoing verse, which is this: “they shall not prevail, because thou shalt make them turn their back.” This last phrase, in Hebrew, is so strongly idiomatic that it scarcely admits of an exact translation. Thou shalt make (or place) them shoulder. See above, on Ps. 18:41 (40), where a similar idiom occurs. In the verse before us, the chronological succession is reversed; it was by shooting at their face that he should make them turn their back. The true relation of the clauses is denoted, in the English Bible, by supplying a particle of time: “thou shalt make them turn their back (when) thou shalt make ready (thine arrows) upon thy strings against the face of them.” The version make ready is also a correct one, although some translate the phrase take aim, which is really expressed by another form of the same verb. The true sense of the one here used is clear from Ps. 11:2, and the distinctive use of both from Ps. 7:13, 14 (12, 13).

14 (13). Be high, Jehovah, in thy strength; we will sing and celebrate thy power. Here the psalm returns to God as its great theme, and gives him all the glory. Be high, exalted, both in thyself and in the praises of thy people. See above, on Ps. 18:47 (46). Thy strength and power, as displayed in the strength given to thine anointed. Celebrate by music, as the Hebrew verb always means. There is a beautiful antithesis in this verse, as if he had said: thou hast only to deserve praise, we will give it.[1]

 

 

[1] Alexander, J. A. (1864). The Psalms Translated and Explained (pp. 95–98). Edinburgh: Andrew Elliot; James Thin. (Public Domain)

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Psalm 20

Psalm 20

To the chief Musician, A Psalm of David. The LORD hear thee in the day of trouble; the name of the God of Jacob defend thee; Send thee help from the sanctuary, and strengthen thee out of Zion; Remember all thy offerings, and accept thy burnt sacrifice; Selah. Grant thee according to thine own heart, and fulfil all thy counsel. We will rejoice in thy salvation, and in the name of our God we will set up our banners: the LORD fulfil all thy petitions. Now know I that the LORD saveth his anointed; he will hear him from his holy heaven with the saving strength of his right hand. Some trust in chariots, and some in horses: but we will remember the name of the LORD our God. They are brought down and fallen: but we are risen, and stand upright. Save, LORD: let the king hear us when we call.” (Psalm 20, AV)

A prayer for the use of the ancient church in time of war. Addressing her visible head, she wishes him divine assistance and success, ver. 2–6 (1–5), and expresses a strong confidence that God will answer her petition, ver. 7–9 (6–8), which she then repeats and sums up in conclusion, ver. 10 (9).

There is no trace of this psalm having been composed with reference to any particular occasion, its contents being perfectly appropriate to every case in which the chosen people, under their theocratic head, engaged in war against the enemies of God and Israel.

To the Chief Musician. Written for his use and entrusted to him for execution. As in all other cases, this inscription shews the psalm to have been written, not for the expression of mere personal feelings, but to be a vehicle of pious sentiment to the collective body of God’s people.—A Psalm by David. The correctness of this statement is not only free from any positive objection, but confirmed by the whole tone and style of the performance, as well as by its intimate connection with the next psalm. See below, on Ps. 21:1.

2 (1). Jehovah hear thee in the day of trouble! The name of Jacob’s God exalt thee! The name of God, the revelation of his nature in his acts. “May those divine attributes, which have been so often manifested in the experience of the chosen people, be exercised for thy protection. See above, on Ps. 5:12 (11).—The God of Jacob, of the patriarch so called, and of his seed. See Mat. 22:32.—Exalt thee, raise thee beyond the reach of danger. See above, on Ps. 9:10 (9), 18:3, 49 (2, 48).

3 (2). (May Jehovah) send thee help from (his) sanctuary, and from Zion sustain thee. The mention of Zion and the sanctuary shews that Jehovah is appealed to as the king of his people, and as such not only able but bound by covenant to afford them aid. See below, on ver. 10 (9). Sustain thee, hold thee up, the same verb that is used in Ps. 18:36 (35). Both verbs may also be translated as simple futures, will send, will sustain; but see below.

4 (3). (May Jehovah) remember all thy gifts and accept thy offering. Selah. The word remember in the first clause seems to involve an allusion to the memorial (אַזְכָּרָה), a name given in the sacrificial ritual to that part of the vegetable offering which was burnt upon the altar. See Lev. 2:2, 6:8 (15).—The word translated gifts, although properly generic, is specially used to denote the vegetable offerings of the law, while the word translated offering is the technical name of the principal animal sacrifice. They are put together to describe these two species of obligation. Compare Ps. 40:7 (6), Jer. 17:26, Dan. 9:27.—The verb translated accept means elsewhere to make fat (Ps. 23:5), or to remove the ashes of the altar. (Exod. 27:3, Num. 4:13). Some give it here the sense of turning into ashes or consuming, others that of pronouncing fat, and therefore fit for sacrifice. In either case acceptance is implied. The optative form of the verb in the original seems to confirm the sense already put upon the foregoing futures. From this verse it has been inferred, with some probability, that the whole psalm was specially intended to be used at the sacrifice offered by the Israelites before a campaign or a battle. (See 1 Sam. 13:9, 10). To this some add the supposition, that the selah, in the verse before us, marks the pause in the performance of the psalm, during which the sacrifice was actually offered. See above, on Ps. 3:3 (2).

5 (4). (May he) give thee according to thy heart, and all thy counsel (or design) fulfil. This is not a vague wish for success in general, but a prayer for success on the particular occasion when the psalm was to be used.—Thy heart, thy desire. Thy counsel, the plan which thou hast formed and undertaken to execute in God’s name, and for the protection or deliverance of his people.

6 (5). May we rejoice in thy deliverance, and in the name of our God display a banner! May Jehovah fulfil all thy petitions! The phrase thy deliverance may mean that wrought or that experienced by thee. In all probability both ideas are included. In the name of our God, and therefore not as a mere secular triumph. The second verb (נִדְגֹּל) seems to be connected with a noun (דָּגָל) used by Moses to denote the banners under which the four great divisions of the host marched through the wilderness (Num. 1:52, 2:2, 3, 10, 18, 25, 10:14). Hence the conjectural translation, “may we set up (or display) a banner.” But as the participle of the same verb seems, in the only other place where it occurs (Song of Sol. 5:10), to signify distinguished or exalted, others follow the Septuagint and Vulgate in translating, may we be lifted up or magnified.—The last clause is a comprehensive prayer, equivalent in meaning to ver. 5 (4) above, and including not merely what had been expressly specified, but all that the theocratic sovereign might desire or attempt in conformity with God’s will, whether known to the whole body of his followers or not. This clause concludes the first division of the psalm by recurring to the theme with which it opens, and with which again the whole psalm closes. See below, on ver. 10 (9).

7 (6). Now I know that Jehovah has saved his Anointedhe will hear him from his holy heavenswith the saving strength of his right hand. What was asked in the foregoing context is here said to be already granted. Hence some imagine that a battle or other decisive event must be supposed to intervene. But this, besides being highly improbable and forced in so brief a composition, is forbidden by the immediate recurrence to the future form, he will hear. A far more natural solution is, that this verse expresses a sudden conviction or assurance that the preceding prayers are to be answered. As if he had said: “Such are my requests, and I know that Jehovah has already granted them, so that in his purpose and to the eye of faith, his Anointed is already safe, and has already triumphed.” The change to the first person singular does not indicate a different speaker, but merely puts what follows into the mouth of each individual believer, or of the whole body viewed as an ideal person.

The second member of the sentence may be best explained as a parenthesis, leaving the third to be construed directly with the first, as in the version above given. In this verse we have two examples of a common Hebrew idiom, one of them a very strong one. The phrase translated from his holy heavens might seem to mean the heavens of his holiness; but the true construction is his heavens of holiness, i.e. the heavens where the Holy One resides, and from which his assistance must proceed. See above, on Ps. 2:6, 11:4. The attribute of holiness is mentioned to exalt still further the divine and sacred nature of the warfare and the victory to which the psalm relates. Another example of the Hebrew idiom before referred to is the saving strength of his right hand, which literally rendered is the strengths of the salvation of his right hand. The plural strengths may either be intensive, or refer to the various exertions of the power here described. The right hand has the same sense as in Ps. 18:36 (35). Here, as in Ps. 18:51 (50), His Messiah or Anointed One includes the whole succession of genuine theocratic kings, not excepting him whose representatives they were, and in whom the royal line was at the same time closed and made perpetual.

8 (7). These in chariots and these in horses, and we in the name of Jehovah our God, will glory. All the objects are connected by the same preposition with the same verb, namely, that at the end of the sentence. In order to retain the preposition, which must otherwise be varied, and thereby obscure the structure of the sentence, the verb glory, which is construed with the preposition in, has been substituted for the strict sense of the verb, we will cause to be remembered, i.e. mention or commemorate. See Exod. 23:13, Amos 6:10, Isa. 48:1, 63:7. The insertion of the verb trust, in the English versions of the first clause, is entirely gratuitous. These and these is the Hebrew idiom for some and others. Compare this to this, in Exod. 14:20, Isa. 6:3.—The verb, in the case before us, may have been selected in allusion to the cognate form in ver. 4 (3) above. “As God has remembered thy offerings, so we will cause his name to be remembered.”—Our God is again emphatic and significant, as shewing that the whole psalm has reference to the covenant relation between God and his people represented by their theocratic sovereign. With the contrast in this verse compare 1 Sam. 17:45, Isa. 31:3, Ps. 33:16, 17.

9 (8). They have bowed and fallen, and we have risen and stood upright. Here, as in ver. 7 (6), the past tense expresses the certainty of the event, or rather the confidence with which it is expected. The emphatic they at the beginning means the enemies and oppressors of God’s people. We have arisen seems to imply a previous prostration and subjection.—The last verb occurs only here in this form, which is properly reflexive, and may be explained to mean, we have straightened ourselves up.

10 (9). Jehovah, save! Let the King hear us in the day we call, or still more closely, in the day of our calling. The Septuagint and Vulgate make the king a part of the first clause: “Jehovah, save the king” (Domine salvum fac regem). But this not only violates the masoretic accents, which, though not ultimately binding, are entitled to respect as a traditional authority, but separates the verb in the last clause from its subject, so that both the ancient versions just referred to have been under the necessity of changing the third into the second person (hear us). The first clause is besides more expressive and emphatic without the king than with it. Nothing could be more pregnant or sonorous than the laconic prayer, Jehovah, save! The object is, of course, to be supplied from ver 7 (6), and from the tenor of the whole psalm. The other construction, it is true, enables us to make the King of this verse the same person with the Anointed of ver. 7 (6). But far from any disadvantage, there is great force and beauty, in referring the expected blessing to the true King of Israel, whom David and his followers only represented. See Deut. 33:5, Ps. 48:3 (2), Mat. 5:35.—By taking the last verb as a future proper (the King will hear us) the psalm may be made to close with a promise, or rather with a confident anticipation of God’s blessing. Most interpreters, however, prefer to make it optative, and thus to let the psalm conclude as it began, with an expression of intense desire.[1]

 

[1] Alexander, J. A. (1864). The Psalms Translated and Explained (pp. 92–95). Edinburgh: Andrew Elliot; James Thin. (Public Domain)

Psalm 19 Giving Arrows Title.jpg

Psalm 19

“To the chief Musician, A Psalm of David. The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork. Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night sheweth knowledge. There is no speech nor language, where their voice is not heard. Their line is gone out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world. In them hath he set a tabernacle for the sun, Which is as a bridegroom coming out of his chamber, and rejoiceth as a strong man to run a race. His going forth is from the end of the heaven, and his circuit unto the ends of it: and there is nothing hid from the heat thereof. The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple. The statutes of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart: the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes. The fear of the LORD is clean, enduring forever: the judgments of the LORD are true and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold: sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb. Moreover by them is thy servant warned: and in keeping of them there is great reward. Who can understand his errors? cleanse thou me from secret faults. Keep back thy servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me: then shall I be upright, and I shall be innocent from the great transgression. Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O LORD, my strength, and my redeemer.” (Psalm 19, AV)

This psalm consists of three parts. The subject of the first is God’s revelation of himself in his material works, ver. 2–7 (1–6). That of the second is the still more glorious revelation of himself in his law, ver. 8–11 (7–10). The third shews the bearing of these truths upon the personal character and interest of the writer, and of all who are partakers of his faith, ver. 12–15 (11–14).

The object of the psalm is not to contrast the moral and material revelations, but rather to identify their author and their subject. The doctrinal sum of the whole composition is, that the same God who reared the frame of nature is the giver of a law, and that this law is in all respects worthy of its author.

1. To the Chief Musician, a Psalm by David. The form of this inscription is the same as that of Ps. 13. Its historical correctness is attested by its position in the Psalter, its resemblance to Ps. 8, and its peculiar style and spirit.

2 (1). The heavens (are) telling the glory of God, and the work of his hands (is) the firmament declaring. The participles are expressive of continued action. The glory of God is the sum of his revealed perfections (compare Ps. 24:7–10, 29:3, Rom. 1:20. The expanse or firmament is used as an equivalent to heaven, even in the history of the creation, Gen. 1:8. To declare the work of his hands is to shew what he can do and has actually done. The common version handywork means nothing more than handwork; to take handy as an epithet of praise is a vulgar error.

3 (2). Day to day shall pour out speech, and night to night shall utter knowledge. Both verbs are peculiar to the poetical dialect and books of the Old Testament. Pour out, in a copious ever-gushing stream. As the participles of ver. 2 (1) express constant action, so the futures here imply continuance in all time to come. Speech means the declaration of God’s glory, and knowledge the knowledge of the same great object. The idea of perpetual testimony is conveyed by the figure of one day and night following another as witnesses in unbroken succession.

4 (3). There is no speech, and there are no words; not at all is their voice heard. As the first clause might have seemed to contradict the first clause of ver. 3 (2), the Psalmist adds no words, to shew that he here uses speech in the strict sense of articulate language.—The first word of the last clause is properly a noun, meaning cessation or defect, non-entity, and here used as a more emphatic negative, expressed in the translation by the phrase not at all.—Their voice might either be referred exclusively to the heaven and firmament of ver. 2 (1), or extended to the day and night of ver. 3 (2). But the first is the true construction, as appears from the next verse. The absence of articulate language, far from weakening the testimony, makes it stronger. Even without speech or words, the heavens testify of God to all men. This construction of the sentence is much simpler, as well as more exact, than the ancient one, retained in the common version, “there is no speech nor language where their voice is not heard,” or that preferred by others, “it is not a speech or language whose voice is not heard.” The true sense is given in the margin of the English Bible.

5 (4.) In all the earth has gone out their line, and in the end of the world (are) their words. For the sun he has pitched a tent in them. The word rendered line always means a measuring line, and in Jer. 31:39 is combined in that sense with the same verb as here. The idea is, that their province or domain is co-extensive with the earth, and that they speak with authority even in its remotest parts.—Words may also be construed with the verb of the first clause, but it will then be necessary to translate the preposition to. The explanation of line as meaning the string of a musical instrument, and then the sound which it produces, although favoured by the ancient versions, is entirely at variance with Hebrew usage. The subject of the verb in the last clause is the name of God expressed in ver. 2 (1) above.—Pitched a tent, provided a dwelling, or without a figure, assigned a place. In them must refer to the heavens mentioned in ver. 2 (1), which makes it probable that all the plural pronouns in the intervening clauses have the same antecedent. The sun is introduced in this sentence probably because his apparent course is a measure of the wide domain described in the first clause. It must be co-extensive with the earth, because the sun which visits the whole earth has his habitation in the sky. The boundless extension of the heavens and their testimony is used by Paul (Rom. 10:18) to signify the general diffusion of the gospel, and the same thing might have taught the earlier Jews that their exclusive privileges were granted only for a time, and as a means to a more glorious end.

6 (5). And he (is) as a bridegroom coming out of his chamber; he rejoices as a mighty man to run a race. The second simile has reference to the sun’s daily course, the first to his vigorous and cheerful reappearance after the darkness of the night. By a fine transition, the general idea of a tent or dwelling is here exchanged for the specific one of a nuptial couch or chamber. Rejoices, literally will rejoice, forever as he now does.

7 (6). From the end of the heavens (is) his outgoing, and his circuit even to the ends of them, and there is none (or nothing) hidden from his heat. What is said in ver. 5 (4) of the heavens is here said of the sun, to wit, that his domain is coextensive with the earth or habitable world. The last clause is added to shew that it is not an ineffective presence, but one to be felt as well as seen. The sun’s heat is mentioned, not in contrast with his light, but as its inseparable adjunct.—The plural ends seems to be added to the singular in order to exhaust the meaning, or at least to strengthen the expression. The word translated circuit includes the idea of return to a starting-point. The Hebrew preposition properly means up to (or down to) their very extremity.

8 (7). The law of Jehovah is perfect, restoring the soul; the testimony of Jehovah is sure, making wise the simple. The God, whose glory is thus shewn forth by the material creation, is the author of a spiritual law, which the Psalmist now describes in the next three verses, by six characteristic names, six qualifying epithets, and six moral effects produced by it. In the verse before us, besides the usual term law, it is called God’s testimony, i.e. the testimony which he bears for truth and against iniquity. It is described as perfect, i.e. free from all defect or blemish, and as sure, i.e. definite, decided, and infallible. Its two effects, mentioned in this verse. are, first, that of restoring the soul, i.e. the life and spirits exhausted by calamity. See below, on Ps. 23:3, and compare Ruth. 4:15, Lam. 1:11, 16. The effect of converting the soul would not have been attributed to the law in this connection, where the writer is describing the affections cherished towards the law by men already converted, which removes all apparent inconsistency with Paul’s representation of the law as working death, and at the same time the necessity of making the law mean the gospel, or in any other way departing from the obvious and usual import of the Hebrew word. The other effect ascribed to the law is that of making wise the simple, not the foolish, in the strong sense in which that term is applied to the ungodly—see above, on Ps. 14:1—but those imperfectly enlightened and still needing spiritual guidance, a description applicable, more or less, to all believers. It is a singular fact, that while this usage of the Hebrew word is peculiar to David, Solomon constantly applies it to the culpable simplicity of unconverted men. (See Ps. 116:6, 119:130, Prov. 1:22, 7:7, 9:4, 14:15, &c.)—In like manner Paul describes the “sacred scriptures” as able to make wise unto salvation, 2 Tim. 3:15.

9 (8). The statutes of Jehovah (are) right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of Jehovah is pure, enlightening the eyes. The words translated statute and commandment differ very slightly from each other, the one expressing more distinctly the idea of a charge or commission, the other that of a prescription or direction. There is also no great difference between the epithets applied in this verse to the law of God, which is right, as being an exact expression of his rectitude, and pure, as being free from all taint of injustice or iniquity. The first effect described is that of rejoicing the heart, to wit, the heart loving righteousness, and consequently desirous of knowing what is right by knowing what is acceptable to God, and what required by him. The other effect, enlightening the eyes, is understood by some of intellectual illumination with respect to spiritual things. But it is more agreeable to Hebrew usage to suppose an allusion to the dimness of the eyes produced by extreme weakness and approaching death, recovery from which is figuratively represented as an enlightening of the eyes. See above, on Ps. 13:4 (3), and compare Ps. 34:6 (5). The figure, thus explained, bears a strong resemblance to restoring the soul in the preceding verse, the one referring rather to the sense, and the other to the life itself.

10 (9). The fear of Jehovah is clean, standing for ever; the judgments of Jehovah are truth, they are righteous altogether. As the fear of Jehovah, in its proper sense, would here be out of place, and as the law was designed to teach men how to fear the Lord (Deut. 17:19), the phrase may here be understood as a description of the law viewed in reference to this peculiar purpose, the fear of the Lord being put for that which leads or teaches men to fear him, a sense which the expression is supposed to have in several other places. See Ps. 34:12 (11), Prov. 1:29, 2:5, 15:33.—Standing forever, of perpetual obligation. Even Christ came not to destroy, but to fulfil. See Mat. 5:17, 18. With the form of expression here compare Ps. 33:11, 112:3.—Judgments are properly judicial decisions, but are here put, as in Ps. 18:23 (22), for all God’s requisitions. They are truth (itself) may be a strong expression, meaning they are perfectly and absolutely true; but as this would make the last clause little more than a tautology, the first phrase may be understood to mean that they are really that which they purport and claim to be, and therefore must be righteous altogether, i.e. all, without exception, righteous, which is tantamount, in fact, though not in form, to wholly or completely righteous.

11 (10). (Judgments) to be desired more than gold, and much fine gold; and sweeter than honey and the dropping of the combs. The description of the law of God is wound up by comparing it to the costliest and sweetest substance in common use. The sense of the passive participle is like that in Ps. 18:4 (3). Its plural form, and the article prefixed to it in Hebrew, shew that it is to be construed with judgments, and that the sentence is continued from the foregoing verse, as in Ps. 18:31 (30), 33 (32), 34 (33), 35 (34), 48 (47), 51 (50).—The Hebrew answering to fine gold is a single word (פָּז), not used in prose, and by some supposed to mean solid or massive gold, but according to a more probable etymology denoting purified or fine gold. The combination here used is found also in Ps. 119:127. See also Prov. 8:19, and compare Ps. 21:4 (3), below. To make the resemblance of the clauses perfect, the usual word for honey is followed by a beautiful periphrasis, denoting that kind which was most highly valued, The ideas expressed by both comparisons are those of value and delightfulness.—As the preceding verses describe what the law is in itself and in its general effects, so this seems to express what it is to the Psalmist’s apprehensions and affections, thus affording a transition from the comprehensive doctrines of the foregoing context to the practical and personal approbation of those doctrines, which now follows and concludes the psalm.

12 (11). Moreover, thy servant is enlightened by them; in keeping them there is much reward. The verb in the first clause is used with special reference to admonition and warning against danger. See Eccles. 4:13, Exod. 33:4, 5, 6, Eccles. 12:12. The plural suffixes have reference to judgments in ver. 10 (9) above.—Reward is here used not to signify a recompense earned in strict justice, but a gratuity bestowed. The spirit of the passage is the same as in 1 Cor. 15:19, 1 Tim. 4:8. The phrase thy servant brings the general doctrines of the foregoing context into personal application to the writer.

13 (12). Errors who shall understand? Clear thou me from hidden ones! The word translated errors is akin to one sometimes used in the Law to denote sins of inadvertence, error, or infirmity, as distinguished from deliberate, willful, and high-handed sins, such as are deprecated in the next verse. See Lev. 4:2–27, Num. 15:27. Against such sins no wisdom or vigilance can wholly guard.—The word translated clear is also borrowed from the Law, and means not so much to cleanse by renovation of the heart, as to acquit by a judicial sentence. See Exod. 34:7, Num. 14:18. Such an acquittal, in the case of sinners against God, involves the idea of a free forgiveness.

14 (13). Also from presumptuous (ones) withhold thy servant; then shall I be perfect and be clear from much transgression. As he prays for the forgiveness of his inadvertent sins, so he prays for the prevention of deliberate ones. The Hebrew word (זֵדִים) properly denotes proud men, but seems to be here applied to sins by a strong personification. The use of the verbal root and its derivatives in the Old Testament may be seen by comparing Exod. 21:14, Deut. 17:12, 18:22, 1 Sam. 17:28.—To be perfect has the same sense as in Ps. 18:24–26 (23–25). That it does not there mean sinless perfection is confirmed by the language of the verse before us.—The great transgression, as if referring to some one particular offence, is not the true sense of the Hebrew phrase, which is indefinite and perfectly analogous to that rendered much (or great) reward in ver. 12 (11) above.

15 (14). (Then) shall be for acceptance (or acceptable) the sayings of my mouth, and the thought of my heart before thee, Jehovah, my rock and my redeemer. The simplest and most obvious construction of the Hebrew sentence makes it a direct continuation of the last clause of ver. 14 (13), and like it an anticipation of the happy effects to be expected from an answer to the foregoing prayers. If his sins of ignorance could be forgiven, and the deliberate sins, to which his natural corruption prompts him, hindered by divine grace, he might hope not only to avoid much guilt but to be the object of God’s favor. As this confident anticipation really involves a wish that it may be fulfilled, there is little real difference between the construction above given and the common version: let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable, &c. It is much more natural, however, to connect the words before thee with my meditation, which immediately precedes, than with the first words of the verse as in the English Bible. What I think in thy presence is then joined with the words of my mouth, to express all prayer, whether clothed in words or not. See above, on Ps. 5:2 (1). The prayer or expectation of acceptance in this clause derives peculiar beauty from the obvious allusion to the frequent use of the same Hebrew phrase (לְרָצוֹן) in the law of Moses, to denote the acceptance of the sacrificial offerings, or rather the acceptance of the offerer on account of them. See Exod. 28:38, Lev. 19:5, 7, 22:19, 20, 29, 23:11, Isa. 56:7, 60:7, Rom. 12:1. This allusion also serves to suggest the idea, not conveyed by a translation, of atonement, expiation, as the ground of the acceptance which the Psalmist hopes or prays for.[1]

 

 

[1] Alexander, J. A. (1864). The Psalms Translated and Explained (pp. 87–92). Edinburgh: Andrew Elliot; James Thin. (Public Domain)


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